By Shane D. Williams
The government of Belize is borrowing five million dollars to purchase 238,000 additional doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, but has revealed no plan to get the vaccines into the arms of poor and less educated citizens. This important endeavor requires an education campaign comparable to that of the ICJ Referendum because the people who can least afford to be hospitalized with Covid-19 are not visiting the vaccination sites for several reasons.
Chief among those reasons is misinformation. News of the halting of vaccine distribution due to reports of blood clots was broadcasted sensationally, with no effort to later educate the masses on the rarity and uncertainty of a link between vaccines and reported cases of blood clots. Therefore, word on the streets to grassroots communities is that there is a risk of getting a blood clot if you take the vaccine. Although European experts who studied the link between vaccines and blood clots found that there is a possible risk of blood clot for one in 250,000, and a risk of death for one in a million recipients of the vaccine, public confidence in vaccines have dropped significantly.
The latest information from the Ministry of Health shows a 0.11 percent positivity rate for Covid-19 tests (the majority taken with the less reliable rapid tests) and our case mortality rate stands at 2.55 percent. The risk of a blood clot associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine is 0.000004 percent and the risk of death is 0.000001 percent. Therefore, the risk of getting tested positive and dying from Covid-19 in Belize is seven times higher than the possibility of getting a blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine. And for perspective, the risk of blood clots for women taking birth control is 250 times greater than taking the vaccine, at 0.1 percent.
These figures are a lot to digest, so data is much more difficult to spread than misinformation. This is why there needs to be serious investment in a vaccine education campaign that can reach grassroots communities. If an ICJ education approach is not taken, the poor people will be left behind to die from a disease that is now treatable.
By Shane D. Williams