Sun | May 22, 2022

Mark Wignall | Fighting ignorance is still on the agenda in 2022

Published:Sunday | January 2, 2022 | 12:08 AM
At the rate our island paradise is able to convince our people to get properly vaccinated we should get about 70 per cent of our tough-headed people fully vaccinated in 2031.
At the rate our island paradise is able to convince our people to get properly vaccinated we should get about 70 per cent of our tough-headed people fully vaccinated in 2031.

A grim statistic seen on the COVID-19 vax live website last Thursday morning stated that ‘vaccines administered for COVID-19 in Jamaica, currently at rate of about 0.01/second or 851 each day’. That is about 40.4 doses per 100 people (~2.97 million). At this rate, Jamaica could have 70 per cent of people vaccinated (two doses) in 3,481 days (or by July 11, 2031).

Yes, you read that right. At the rate our island paradise is able to convince our people to get properly vaccinated, we should get about 70 per cent of our tough-headed people fully vaccinated in 2031! That is one year after Jamaica is supposed to crack that Vision 2030 hope and wish.

Meanwhile, Jamaican politicians, and especially our health authorities, are forced on the back foot to congratulate us for every little piecemeal effort like a parent who has just convinced a toddler to eat his cream of carrots. “Good boy. Mommy loves you.”

Then late last year, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said 55 per cent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but there are still too many people who continue to remain unvaccinated in the region.

PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne, during their weekly update, said that 20 countries in the region have yet to reach the WHO’s year-end 45 per cent vaccination target. Dr Etienne said Guatemala and several Caribbean countries, including Haiti, Jamaica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines remain far behind. She says at the current pace, as many as six countries may not meet the 40 per cent year-end target.

Forty per cent? An absolute pipe dream. Meanwhile, Cuba has fully vaccinated 83 per cent of its population! With a crippling embargo forcing it to eke out solutions to many problems by the innovativeness of its people.

What all of this means is that no Jamaican politician in power who wants to hang on for dear life for more of that power is forced to swallow what he knows in his heart is true. Jamaica’s education system and its inability to engineer an efficient throughput of many of our high school-age children in a structured learning system that focuses on lifelong learning has been holding many back for ages.

It is that lifelong learning that pushes the young adult to question himself and herself and successfully sift sawdust from ice cream, not exactly a task to break the brain box. In private, there are a few politicians who will admit this to me off the record. They see it every day and are forced to swallow it and butter up their constituents from the political podium.

‘Wi nuh stay like dem people ova dey so. We use wi brain an make di X fi di right party. Onnu big up onnu self.’

NCU STUDY ON COVID-19 VAX CAMPAIGN

We are grateful for the publication of an NCU (Northern Caribbean University) study, which, among other findings, showed that “… with only 17.2 per cent of Jamaicans fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus as of December 1, the NCU study found that the perceived effectiveness of the vaccine is a major factor or predictor of the public’s acceptance of the vaccine. Respondents who believe that the vaccine is effective in treating the COVID-19 disease are 4.5 times more likely to be fully vaccinated. Those who believe the vaccine is ‘at least somewhat effective’ are 2.5 times more likely to be fully vaccinated.”

The study also found that ‘this research revealed that factors influencing the decision for vaccination, such as incentive from the Government, information on social media, death of loved ones, relatives, or friends from COVID-1, and occupation were significant predictors of vaccine acceptance,” said noted lead researcher Paul Andrew Bourne.

“The NCU study points out that in 2021, Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce Dr Norman Dunn, while attending one of the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ COVID-19 blitz, agreed that educating Jamaicans about the COVID-19 vaccines will help to reduce vaccine hesitancy.”

I am not for a moment pouring cold water on the findings of Mr Bourne. I have no reason to believe his data is not solid, but again, there are parts of this study that peep through a troubling veil. Many Jamaicans who rated the Holness administration quite high in its handling of the initial COVID infection in 2020 and in the roll-out of the vaccination campaign in 2021 are seeking the Government’s help in fluffing the pillow for them at nights and in waking them up with a kiss in the morning.

Many youngsters, male and female, with very obvious education deficits, simply tell me, “mi nah tek it.”

Others will say, “Mek Holness and di police and the army come force me fi tek it. Dem fi gwey!”

TOUGH JOB IN KEEPING HOPES ALIVE

At Kingston College (KC) in the 1960s when the school was winning every sports and academic award, our rallying cry of Fortis Cadere, Cedere Non Potest (the Brave may fall but never yield) was, to be truthful, hardly ever needed to strengthen the weak because we were so efficient at how we attained our triumphs.

In 2022, right across Jamaica, that real cry of getting up after being pummelled is badly needed as a mindset.

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 could be a new disease, or based on the many unknowns at this time, it may lead to the tapering off of COVID-19 and into its endemic state, where we could live with it like the flu and the cold. We have to be alert to new info as it emerges.

None of us who have carried over some amount of sanity from 2021 expected the terrible murders in Jamaica to cease and give us pause to hope. That was never on.

Those who believe that musical chairs in our politics - switching Cabinet personnel - will create a magic space where murders will dip and give people who live in depressed garrison communities a reason to hope will be sorely disappointed.

New year, but the brutal pain of that old agenda will be with us in all of this year. The work must start all over again.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.