What reward for the vaccinated?

One of the messages consistently preached by the Government and the health authorities is that getting vaccinated against the novel coronavirus is an essential process in returning to our normal way of life.

Of course, we accept that there are some aspects of the way we live that have required a bit of adjustment as we adapt to measures necessary to exist with the pandemic.

But overall, the advice from scientists, governments, and the World Health Organization is that vaccination is, at the moment, the best response to COVID-19 and the surest way for a return to life as we knew it.

Unfortunately, hesitancy has resulted in low take-up of COVID-19 vaccines here, as is the case in some other countries. The upshot is that measures designed to restrict spread of the virus remain in force in many jurisdictions. However, the question is increasingly and understandably being asked: Why should individuals who take the step to protect themselves be punished because others choose not to be inoculated?

That position has even been advanced by governments, including here in Jamaica. However, the lack of a clear policy here on this issue has painted a picture of confusion by the Jamaican Government.

We have long argued in this space that allowing spectators at sporting events, on proof of vaccination, would be a fillip to the inoculation programme. It would also give meaning to the Government's push for the population to 'Get vaccinated, get back to life', as the slogan states.

However, what now obtains is that sporting events are being staged without spectators, the only exception being last November's football World Cup qualifier between Jamaica and the United States at which up to 5,000 vaccinated fans were approved to enter the National Stadium.

In that case, the Government, as we stated before, clearly heeded calls from the sporting fraternity as well as groups such as the Professor Gordon Shirley-led National COVID-19 Vaccination Task Force, which had argued for fully vaccinated people to be “rewarded”.

That strategy, we reiterate, is not original. It's being used across the globe to encourage people who are hesitant to take the vaccine and also to accelerate return of societies to some sort of normality.

We make that point in light of the fact that the Government has denied a request to have a limited number of vaccinated spectators enter Sabina Park for the current One-Day International series and a one-off Twenty20 cricket match between West Indies and Ireland. That decision is compounded by a ridiculous refusal to have journalists, especially from the print media, cover the games.

The same policy was implemented in August for the two Test matches between West Indies and Pakistan at Sabina Park. All this while horse racing fans have been allowed inside Caymanas Park since June 2020, even during the series of lockdowns after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in March that year.

It bears repeating that such inconsistencies have the potential to generate cynicism and harm the country's efforts to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Certainly, people who are against vaccines have their right, but those who take the vaccine and wish to attend events should not be denied, especially if organisers ensure that all the now-well-known protocols are strictly followed.

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