In one of a series of press releases blasting the Andrew A. Fahie (R1)-led Government today, April 5, 2021, Honourable Marlon A. Penn (R8) said the public relations campaign around the vaccine and the roll out programme has proven a failure.
The Leader of the Opposition, who is currently in self-isolation for 10 days due to possible exposure to the virus, said the “Government has proven there is no plan in place” to safely navigate COVID-19 in the Territory and that the Government was well aware of the donation of vaccines and their expected arrival date, however, he said “the ball was dropped" and alleged that the public relations campaign ensued only after the arrival of the vaccine in the Territory.
“There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding the vaccine and getting vaccinated. This is a clear indication that a more in-depth conversation about the vaccine and its benefits to persons and the wider community is greatly needed,” Honourable Penn said.
Government has been actively promoting vaccination in the territory, including by having medical personnel appear on various public forum, including on social media, to provide information about the vaccine as well as clear up misunderstandings about it.
It should be noted that it was on March 26, 2021, that Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon Carvin Malone (AL) announced that a Community Outreach Committee has been formed and purposed to inform and educate all residents of the importance and benefits of being vaccinated.
While expressing his support for vaccination, the Opposition Leader said he recognises it is only one of many tools to fight COVID and rebound from the pandemic. He further added a strong educational campaign is needed to reach persons who may not be on social media or even tune into the various radio programmes.
“Lack of planning and policy continue to plague this Administration and while we recognise that the vaccine is not a silver bullet, it is imperative that a plan is put in place to live, work and manage COVID in our Territory,” Honourable Plenn said.
Noting the global shortage on vaccines, Penn said, “I am hopeful that our vaccines do not go to waste and we are able to utilise all of the donations received.”
What Hon Penn failed to mention is that concerns surrounding the taking of the AstraZeneca vaccine are not limited to the Virgin Islands but are global, which has slowed vaccination programmes.
The European Union, for example, has had a bumpy COVID-19 vaccine rollout due to concerns about the vaccine before declaring it safe. 13 EU countries had decided to halt the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot while possible side effects were investigated.
More recently, several countries briefly halted their use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine amid safety concerns, a move that baffled health experts and raised questions about future uptake.
On Tuesday, March 30, 2021, Germany suspended use of the AstraZeneca shot in all citizens under 60, citing renewed concerns after a small number of reports of rare but serious blood clots. Earlier this week, some hospitals in Berlin had initially stopped vaccinating women under 55 with AstraZeneca’s shot.
Health officials in Canada last week suspended plans to give AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine to younger people over concerns it could lead to blood clots in rare circumstances.
It was another setback for Prime Minister Justin P. J. Trudeau’s vaccine effort, which is off to the second-slowest start among Group of Seven countries.
And the US has said it may not need AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine — even if the shot gets approved by federal regulators.
In an interview with Reuters, Dr Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the White House, said the nation already has enough contracts with other vaccine makers to inoculate the entire population.
US regulators had accused AstraZeneca of “cherry picking” data to make it seem like the shot was more effective.
Following public criticism, AstraZeneca said the data was based on a “pre-specified interim analysis,” and agreed to release an updated report.
The firm then released revised results showing a diminished, though still strong, efficacy for its inoculation.
In the Virgin Islands some 7000 persons have been administered a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Territory has some 32,000 doses of the vaccine but is struggling to get especially its locals inoculated.
Numbers don‘t lie. Politicians do.