The seeds of vaccine distrustMonday, May 17, 2021
Thanks to the enterprising efforts of pharmaceutical companies and their experts we now have a diverse array of vaccines to eradicate COVID-19 that has taken a toll upon human life and livelihood. Now, barring supply-side shortfalls in production of vaccines which may be solved — not by the short-sighted vaccine patent waiver, but by boosting vaccine production and logistics — the only thing that stands between eradicating the virus in Jamaica and us is the citizens finding favour in it.
The Government, more so Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton, has laid the blame of vaccine hesitancy, and the slow take-up or opposition of the vaccine on “anti-vaxxers”. Whether it is a broad group of people, or a group of people whom he can identify, that is left ambiguous to his audience.
While I may not be an health expert of any sort, I think that the seeds of vaccine distrust have been planted multiple times, both recently and long ago.
First of all, the flow of information on social media is quite fast, especially misinformation. We cannot regulate social media platforms as they are incorporated in the US, with some probably even headquartered in Ireland. What I could recommend is a lesson in digital literacy and statistical analysis granted to each citizen, so they can tell what is real and what isn't. Misinformers rarely care about the thought process of whom they interact with, but their ability to conform to it or be bent to it through rhetorical questions and statements, and sometimes ad hominem. While we cannot tell people what to think, it is best to teach them how to think in a clear, unbiased manner.
Secondly, trust in the Government has been low. If the electoral statistics of voters is a metric to go by, it shows a dismal report. Government reported corruption and scandals have done a lot to erode trust in Gordon House, from Trafigura to Petrojam and everything else. The five per cent loss of annual gross domestic product (GDP) due to corruption over time may have been an albatross around Jamaica's neck, but no effect of corruption has snowballed like the loss of trust in public institutions.
And the vaccination process requires the trust of the citizens to be rendered successful — the same citizenry that has lost trust in them. Trust is a fragile thing to regain for a long time, so there is very little solutions for that.
To recover from this pandemic, it is time for the Government to stop pointing fingers and think about logical solutions that have the least social and economic costs, because naming and blaming does not solve problems.
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