By Shane D. Williams
Less than 70,000 Belizeans have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine after it has been available in the country free of cost for over three months. This is less than 17 percent of the population. It took three months for 15.7 percent to get at least one dose; therefore, Belize is on pace to reach its 70 percent herd immunity target sometime in April of 2021. This means the government will not be able to meaningfully loosen restrictions or fully open the economy for almost another year.
Government can certainly do a better job at encouraging people to go get vaccinated but there is also much more that public figures can and should be doing. Politicians should treat the vaccination campaign like they treat voter registration and transfer periods. During these times, politicians visit the homes of prospective voters, take them to registration offices and drop them back home after. Some politicians even provide snacks or a meal on these trips. This same approach can be taken with the vaccination campaign.
Community organizations, sports clubs, churches and advocacy groups should also be doing more to educate members and encourage them to get vaccinated. The agenda of all these organizations have been interrupted and even derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is in their best interest to return to normalcy as quickly as possible – and to save the lives of members.
Promoters, artists, musicians, DJs and others that rely on the entertainment industry for income are not doing nearly enough to support the vaccination campaign. They are quick to remind you just how much they have been impacted financially by the quarantine restrictions; therefore, it is in their best interest to return to normalcy as soon as possible. They can and should promote the vaccination sites and efforts like they would at an upcoming concert. This is affecting their pockets – plus it will save the lives of their fans.
The press needs to do more to combat the vast amount of misinformation circulating in our communities. 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 of 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 has dropped significantly.
The latest information from the Ministry of Health shows a 0.11 percent positivity rate for Covid-19 tests (majority 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 clot for women taking birth control is 250 times greater than taking the vaccine, at 0.1 percent.
By Shane D. Williams