THERE IS a lot of hope in the air these days.
The Prime Minister evidently hopes his issuing of an ultimatum on Monday to parents will result in enough students getting vaccinated by mid-September.
Similarly, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is hoping her pleas to parents to let their children take the Pfizer covid19 vaccine, now that it has been fully approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will make a difference.
Acting Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith hopes good sense will prevail and unvaccinated police officers will come to their senses.
The University of the West Indies is hoping staff and students will get vaccinated (though it has made vaccination compulsory for students living in halls of residence).
But it is clear the time for hopeful attempts at moral suasion, the issuing of repeatedly unheeded “ultimatums” and the spouting of unsupported generalisations in relation to covid19 is over.
Today, as Parliament meets to debate the extension of an unprecedented state of emergency called in response to a public health crisis, the Government must have faith in only one thing: the facts.
Let us have evidence, not tired platitudes. Data must inform this afternoon’s proceedings in the House of Representatives.
A good place to start would be to present a clearer picture in relation to covid19 deaths. Tell us what percentage of those deaths has occurred in relation to unvaccinated versus vaccinated people.
Tell us how long this country might take to achieve herd immunity on the basis of current projections, given the ongoing vaccination rate. And tell us what factors went into the selection of a benchmark of between 60 and 70 per cent for herd immunity.
What measures are being put in place to bolster testing capacity in relation to variants and to gather the data needed to inform further decision-making?
What are the specific risks posed by these variants in relation to the current state of affairs?
The Government must also face up to the reality that the status quo cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely. The facts relating to the delta variant speak for themselves. They tell us the State will not be able to keep mandatory vaccination in reserve as a last resort for much longer.
So consideration of an extension must be placed in the context of a clear timeline, not only for students, but also for the general population and for the essential sectors.
The FDA approval of the Pfizer jab is potentially a watershed moment. Policymakers must not squander today’s opportunity to fight back against unwarranted fears over “experimental” vaccines.
Politicians aspire to use mere words to get people to ignore irrational fears and to believe in them. But trust is better built on facts.