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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves receives his COVID-19 jab on Feb.. 9, 2021. (Photo: SVG Health/Facebook)

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Two days after receiving his COVID-19 jab, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, on Thursday, encouraged Vincentians to get vaccinated against the viral illness one vaccines become available.

Gonsalves’ exhortation came one week after saying he was in “prayerful consideration” about whether to volunteer to be among the persons to receive one of 20 doses of the Russian developed Sputnik vaccine donated to SVG.

The prime minister said he was concerned about being accused of jumping the queue.

However, on Tuesday, he and his wife, Eloise, received the vaccine and at a Ministry of Health press conference on Thursday, extolled the virtues of vaccines.

Gonsalves noted that the nation’s children must be vaccinated against  measles, mumps and rubella before the age of 5, if they want to attend a public school.

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“Persons have been taking vaccines for polio. People have been taking vaccines for yellow fever,” the prime minister said, adding that he had a booster shot a couple years ago before visiting Jamaica, where there was an outbreak of yellow fever.

“Similarly if you suspect that you had some food contaminated by a rat, and you’re worried about leptospirosis or yo’ have it, you ain’t take something for it? I mean, I don’t — it’s either we’re going to believe in superstition, we are going to believe in the science,” the prime minister said. 

“Everybody knows, or in my view, every reasonable person knows … that if you didn’t have vaccines, people’s lifespan would have been much shorter.

“This is another vaccine and is a vaccine for a virus, which is not an automatic death sentence. It’s a killer to be sure but we see the persons who have died here in St. Vincent and Grenadines are those with severe comorbidities — severe ones.

“Now, I’m talking purely as a practical person talking to the ordinary man and woman in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, people who have a reasonable temper.”

The prime minister said that those who feel very strongly about not taking any vaccine can go ahead.

“All I’m urging our people to do is not to bother with them. If they don’t want to take it, nobody going force them. Nobody’s forcing anybody to take the vaccine. It’s a voluntary programme. But on the basis of the science which is available, it is wise; it is sensible to take the vaccine, both in relation to what is reported in the science.

“I’d have to believe that all the scientists in the world, at least mainstream scientists are manipulated by some evil set of figures and some conspiracy. I don’t believe that and I don’t think reasonable people will believe that or think so.

“And I want to say I value my life. I am 74. I’ll be 75 this year. I want to live more years. Although I have lived more years than I have remaining left to live. I have taken the Sputnik vaccine because I am satisfied not just with the reports coming from Russia itself, which I’ve read, but also in The Lancet magazine — the journal in the United Kingdom, a reputable journal and our people in St. Vincent and Grenadines, the epidemiologists, the medical people who deal with these matters, they advise me say that all of these vaccines are safe. The Sputnik, the AstraZeneca, the Moderna, the Pfizer …”

Gonsalves said that if a reputable entity approves the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, he would have no problem with it.

“… but all the time these vaccines they are given to you voluntarily. This particular COVID vaccine, any COVID vaccine in the country, we’re not making it mandatory,” he said.

“So from a public health standpoint you do that but the policy is not to give it — who don’t want to take it… don’t take it; but I believe the vast majority of people in St. Vincent and Grenadines will take the vaccine despite attempts by anti-vaxxers or persons, even though they’re not anti-vaxxers, who have a scepticism. The science tells us that it is sensible to take it.

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