Arvel Grant, a political and current-affairs analyst, is calling on the leaders of the country’s four main political parties to come together and reach consensus on mandatory vaccination.
In a social-media post, Grant accused the leaders of the United Progressive Party, the Democratic National Alliance and the Barbuda People’s Movement, along with the Prime Minister and head of the Antigua Labour Party of “fence-sitting” with respect to the issue.
Grant says the four should get off the fence and lead in order to avoid further “existential crisis confronting the social and economic future of tourism-dependent economies.”
“I would much rather see these four Antiguan and Barbudan political leaders in a room, hammering out a political consensus on how to achieve herd immunity in our country,” Grant writes.
He describes the pandemic as the worst national disaster ever to face Antigua and Barbuda, and adds that, without herd immunity, tourism-dependent economies like our will collapse.
In making his case for the promotion of mandatory inoculation, Grant says that many people, including the political leaders, have already been vaccinated against at least 11 illnesses in their lifetime.
In fact, he posits that many of those who are refusing the COVID-19 vaccine today are alive only because they were vaccinated as children.
Despite this, Grant agrees that it is unwise and inhumane to physically force a competent adult to be vaccinated.
However, he believes it is not unconstitutional to require everyone to be vaccinated against a viral pandemic like COVID, which leaves sickness, disability, death, and economic disaster in its tracks.
In support of mandatory vaccination, he points to precedents in which children have been denied access to school because they were not inoculated.
Grant makes an exception, however, for persons who are medically advised against the vaccination.
The political analyst feels that political leaders here, and across the region, have no option, but must “stand in united support of vaccinations” and those who are against the jab.
In order to reach herd immunity, Grant says that a united front is necessary, since many people are heavily influenced by party loyalty. Further, if the political leadership is united against the virus, it becomes easier to unite religions, trade unions and other parts of civil society, he says.
Grant also addresses the economic impact if persons refuse to get vaccinated.
“Unless Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the Caribbean are quickly counted among those countries which have achieved herd immunity … our tourism source markets will dry up, and life will become quite grim for a lot of people in paradise,” he concludes.
Meanwhile, an Executive Member of the United Progressive Party tells REAL News that, while Grant’s message might have some merit, he should familiarize himself with the facts.
She points out that Political Leader Lovell has been publicly vaccinated; has issued a national public-service announcement promoting inoculation; and has consistently urged residents to be vaccinated against the virus.
Accordingly, she says, Lovell cannot be described by anyone as a “fence-sitter.”
The UPP has long said that vaccination against the virus should not be made into a political issue. Rather, it recommends that medical professionals be engaged to educate the population on the benefits of inoculation and the health risks of not taking the drug.