Letter To the Editor: “Return to a Paradise” by Dr Victor Eastmond

There are currently more questions than I can answer and hence I hope this letter encourages responses. The first one is “How can Barbados return to normal?” It is my opinion that our country can return to the Pre-Covid era by either turning the clock back or have the island fully vaccinated along with adherence to existing protocols. The clock cannot be turned back as ‘Tempus Fugit‘, but I think that if Barbados was to be verified as a fully vaccinated island that adheres to protocols, a semblance of normality will be achieved. It must be stated up-front that the vaccine will not get rid of the virus but it prevents individuals from having serious viral reactions and the likelihood of death. The increase immune response of such a process will create protection for both locals and visitors.

Advertising Barbados with such status, can achieve a positive economic outcome with a tsunami of tourists’ arrivals followed by a reduction in our unemployment rate. Our hotels will once again be at full functionality; taxis, gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants, and other services (small shops, etc.) will be safe to provide their services. The country can then be perceived and considered as “Back To Normal” but with the knowledge that the current viral environment continues to prevail and protocols must remain. Complacency should therefore not take place. For this to be a success, visitors must abide by our protocols (existing and any newly implemented ones as required) to minimize any reoccurrence of this pandemic within our paradise.

I have listened to some members of government asking persons to get vaccinated but I question if most of the population is hearing that cry? It appears that some members prefer to listen to fake news (Trump’s statement) as some persons (don’t laugh) are scared that the vaccine contains a microchip that will control them. Social media, religious groups and antivaxxers seem to be holding centre stage and are thereby influencing persons against being vaccinated. This is a serious PANDEMIC that have already led some patients struggling to breathe with a subsequent horrible choking death. Although Barbados appears on the decline, the pandemic continues with an increase in variants as seen in India and Brazil.

It is normal for employees to be notified of any dangers within the working environment and the employer is mandated under section 93(1) of the safety and health at work Act to ensure the work environment are safe. For example, Hepatitis B vaccine is a prerequisite to work in medical/dental environments in which they may be exposed to that virus. Practitioners have recently been notified that such cannot pertain with the Covid19 vaccine to protect the staff from this invisible agent. I believe further discussion is needed on this requirement as the liability remains the practitioner's if an incident occurs within the workplace. The taking of the Hepatitis B and/or the Covid19 vaccine negates the likelihood of the virus spreading to or from an employee within the working environment thus safeguards the employer and employee from likely liability. The best part of taking the vaccine is its benefit to the employee who is protected against the dangers of Hepatitis B or Covid19 being contracted from a vaccinated staff member or patient who might unknowingly be a carrier from previous exposure to the virus.

It is normal for employees to be notified of any dangers within the working environment and the employer is mandated under section 93(1) of the safety and health at work Act to ensure the work environment are safe. For example, Hepatitis B vaccine is a prerequisite to work in medical/dental environments in which they may be exposed to that virus. Practitioners have recently been notified that such cannot pertain with the Covid19 vaccine to protect the staff from this invisible agent. I believe further discussion is needed on this requirement as the liability remains the practitioner’s if an incident occurs within the workplace. The taking of the Hepatitis B and/or the Covid19 vaccine negates the likelihood of the virus spreading to or from an employee within the working environment thus safeguards the employer and employee from likely liability. The best part of taking the vaccine is its benefit to the employee who is protected against the dangers of Hepatitis B or Covid19 being contracted from a vaccinated staff member or patient who might unknowingly be a carrier from previous exposure to the virus.

Thus, the Covid19 vaccine becomes an important armor in this fight against this virus because if persons are unwittingly infected by a virus and become a carrier, family members, loved ones and friends will become a target, if not vaccinated, and this can lead to a horrible death. In the meantime, the government of Barbados continue to legislate restrictions of which inhabitants are becoming tired. My other question is what is the cost of taking the free vaccine? Vaccines are expensive and although the first batch was a gift, further supplies were at a cost to our country. I am aware that people continue to complain that they have no job, no money, cannot support their family and are under emotional stress. Some have lost loved ones to whom the virus was unwittingly transmitted by a family member or friend. This economic cost to the country and businesses due to the loss in manpower resources is high. We need to return to a norm ASAP and get our people back to work to feed their families. Ideally, with the return of a fully vaccinated workforce, our country will once again become fully functional.

My proposal would be primarily for residents of Barbados to be given a timeline to receive the vaccine to improve our immune system and if anyone needs to have it thereafter, it should be at a cost to that individual. Secondly, there needs to be meetings in relation to the restrictions being imposed on employers to have staff vaccinated and with whom the resultant responsibility lies? This may entail some changes to the laws of Barbados but as it stands now, there is a dichotomy in who is responsible if/when someone gets infected within the workplace. Is it the employer’s or employee’s? I would like to think that if Barbados demonstrated and advertised that its population was fully vaccinated, we can quickly return to a semblance of normality, but with enforced protocols/restrictions. My final worry is the variants which are created by mutations when the virus is not dealt with. It is therefore likely that we could produce a Barbados variant if most of the population are not vaccinated as is currently demonstrated by the Indian variant. Such an increase in the pandemic with contagious variants makes the Pandemic worse and could result in a worsening economic situation in Barbados.

This return to normal is requesting a lot from all Barbadians and transient residents but success will be achieved if we unify for the sake of our country and as John F. Kennedy said at his inauguration speech on 20th January 1961, “Ask not what your country can do for you -ask what you can do for country“. This civic challenge applies to all who reside in Barbados regardless of our differences because we have a duty in building back our country to a status for which it known. A Paradise.

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