Health officials in St Vincent and the Grenadines have met with taxi drivers as part of their effort to increase the rate of COVID-19 vaccination.
A sensitisation session was held at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex on Thursday where infectious disease specialist Dr. Jerrol Thompson said that if the right actions are not taken, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to continue.
“There are side effects from the pandemic in terms of a social fall out,” Thompson said.
He alluded to people being depressed and a rise in job losses especially in the tourism sector, noting the significant decrease in tourist arrivals.
Stressing that taxi drivers are part of the “first point of contact”, Thompson noted that it is important for them to safeguard themselves against the threat of COVID-19.
He said the vaccine is highly effective and reiterated that tourists want to visit in a country that is safe. He urged the taxi drivers to get vaccinated to provide a high level of protection for themselves and others.
Former District Medical Officer for the Southern Grenadines, and former UWI lecturer, Dr. Malcolm Grant highlighted concerns about the sensationalism associated with the COVID-19 virus and the misinformation that is overshadowing the “evidence-based medicine”.
He outlined the complications associated with COVID-19, which include brain fog, early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, excessive shortness of breath and, among others, erectile dysfunction.
Addressing the issue of blood clots relating to taking the vaccine, Grant said, “The type of blood clot associated with COVID-19 is extremely rare, occurs at a rate of six, per million and is associated with low levels of platelets in the blood.” Grant said that based on information from the chief medical officer, none of the deaths related to blood clots were related to low platelet levels.
Addressing the issue that the vaccine is being developed too quickly, Grant said the coronavirus is not new and the development of vaccines began since the first, SARS coronavirus was identified in 2003 and later in 2012 MERS.
He noted that scientists commenced work on vaccines then and added that the knowledge for the current coronavirus has existed for at least 17 to 18 years.
The former UWI lecturer said, “People are running from the vaccine based on propaganda.” He urged everyone to be well informed.
Meanwhile, Chief Lab Technologist, Elliot Samuel said that taxi drivers are special to him as his wife is also a taxi driver. He explained the difference that vaccination makes in fighting the virus.
Samuel said that once vaccinated, the body’s defence system creates a rapid response to identify and fight the virus.
“The vaccines were not invented for any cynical purpose,” Samuel said, adding that vaccine gives a fighting chance in combatting the pandemic, adding that “technology is far better now than before”.
And, Chief Executive Officer of the SVG Tourism Authority, Glen Beache told the taxi drivers that the country stands a better chance of returning to normalcy if they are vaccinated.
Beache said: “I am fully vaccinated, my mother is 89 years old and is fully vaccinated and there is nothing I would do to harm that woman…
“We have to get our act together,” Beache said, and pointed out that if SVG country is not on the UK’s green list by a certain time, “we will not get Virgin”, a reference to Virgin Atlantic, which is scheduled to begin travelling to St. Vincent next year.
Beache said cruise lines will not return unless the vaccination rate increases, and if they do return all tours are going to be in a bubble.
“Taxi Drivers are the one’s to suffer the most,” Beache said.
President of the SVG Taxi Drivers Association Winston “Popps” Morgan said the presentation was a fruitful one and those in attendance left with a different mindset.
Morgan said it is very important to be vaccinated to get “our tourism back up and running.”