By Jem Smith
On Thursday, July 8, a press release was circulated by the Belize Rights and Justice Movement, opposing one of the most recent Statutory Instruments, SI No. 74 of 2021. This SI requires that, by the end of July, all frontline workers, which encompasses some 13 professions, be vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test every two weeks. It is part of the government’s campaign for a safer Belize by encouraging more people to be vaccinated against the virus, but the movement sees it as an infringement of rights and a threat to health, safety and wellbeing of frontline workers. As a result, the membership of the movement, a group that claims a membership of more than 300 Belizeans, instructed its executive to issue a release and hold a press conference. That release, “My Body, My Choice, I Do Not Consent Touch One! Touch All!”, explains on their part that Belizeans “across a broad cross-section of society” is making an effort to “denounce the draconian measure taken by the current government to mandate the application of the COVID-19 shot via Statutory Instrument Number 74 of 2021.” The Movement also exists to “defend those who cannot defend themselves against this SI 74” and condemns the vaccine, calling it an “experimental shot” a result of pseudoscience and conspiracy theories.
It is important to note, however, that none of these executive members have any formal medical training, though they might say otherwise. They are Arthur Saldivar, Orlando Pelayo, Jose Espat, Zenaida Moya, Elizabeth Dena, Glendora Gibson and Chanda Makhijani. They understand that SI 74 does not mandate that frontline workers be vaccinated but says that the costs which would be incurred by having to take a PCR test every two weeks will be costly for those frontline workers. Former mayor of Belize City, Moya, says that while being vaccinated is not out-rightly-mandated, it is “mandated through the back door” since their only option is to pay for a PCR test while undergoing pay cuts. Dena says that the Movement will be working from place to place for people to sign a petition which will in turn be given as a letter of notice to the Government of Belize as a “second warning”. They have not gone as far as refraining anyone from being vaccinated but Makhijani goes as far as to say that there might not be a virus. “Whether there is a virus, well let’s look into it. Has the COVID-19 virus been isolated, purified, taken out from an infected area proving this is it, put it in an area that is healthy, and recreated a pathogenic effect? Maybe you should look into it.”
For the safety of our population, the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) encourages everyone to research the efficacy of vaccines as well as to be inoculated. There have never been claims that the vaccines fully prevent infection nor that it categorically stops the spread of the COVID-19 virus, rather that they are linked to less morbidity and mortality. MOHW has been joined by numerous organizations and companies in mobilizing vaccination campaigns.
“My Body, My Choice”, an Anti Vax “Movement” in Belize
By Jem Smith