Former political leader of the Dominica Freedom Party Kent Vital
Former political leader of the Dominica Freedom Party Kent Vital

I have read many opinions and listened to many people over the last few months concerning the COVID-19 vaccination. Some people see no real justification for not taking the vaccines and many go even further and support mandating of the vaccine. Some of these persons are quick to dismiss others who are reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine and describe them as selfish, unthinking, insane, among other unflattering adjectives.

But I can't just dismiss those who do not wish to take a vaccine, especially those vaccines that use the new technology involving placing DNA instructions into the body to cause cells to produce the spike protein of the coronavirus. This technology is used in the AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer vaccines.

Clearly, these vaccines work in the short term! And the short-term side effects of the vaccines appear to be worth the short-term benefits. For the most part, I buy these arguments. Let us accept that the vaccine works in the short term. Many people have accepted that after having followed the reports around the world about how the vaccines have thus far contributed to a reduction in deaths and severe illness from COVID-19. And some people have decided to take a COVID-19 vaccine based on these short-term observations. So let us all acknowledge that remaining vaccine hesitance is not mostly about the short-term efficacy of the vaccines or short-term side effects. Yet many who are currently arguing for making the vaccine mandatory point to these now mostly irrelevant issues related to misinformation concerning the efficacy of the virus and the side effects and I suppose by "efficacy" they mean short-term efficacy although many appear to avoid arguments concerning long-term efficacy. This is perhaps dishonesty and I see that dishonesty displayed by many Caribbean leaders and others who argue for COVID-19 mandates. If it is not dishonesty, then it is intolerance or conceit – intolerance of the views of others and conceit or arrogance that they are right and others are wrong.

I say intolerance because the jury is still out on the long-term efficacy of the vaccines and as a result, there is no place for intolerance on that matter! This is a time for reasoning. People should not be forced to take a vaccine about which they think there could be severe long-term efficacy challenges when there is no scientific information to refute that. I have heard some argue that vaccines are such that if there are no adverse effects within a few months of use, then there are unlikely to be long-term adverse effects! That likely holds for vaccines that use traditional techniques, but we can't apply that to those vaccines that use the new technology. Where there is such doubt it would be unethical to mandate a vaccine! There are credible arguments doubting the long-term efficacy of the vaccines that use the new technology. I have not been able to dismiss these arguments because there are no credible rebuttals to them in my view, and if anything, many of the professionals who encourage everyone to take the vaccines, including PAHO and WHO officials, appear not to raise the matter concerning the long-term efficacy, and perhaps they do so conveniently.

Now all economies around the globe have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and I understand the anxiety of governments to have this thing go away. The lockdowns have affected the bottom lines of many businesses. Many are of the view that the only way for economies and businesses to return to normal is through mass vaccination! So, many businesses have already been requiring their employees to be vaccinated or else lose their jobs. Some Caribbean governments have already moved in that direction with respect to some categories of public workers and others will likely follow suit. But while I understand the predicament that the world is facing, I cannot support either businesses or governments making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory. Instead, I appeal for good senses to prevail. Governments should have totally honest discussions with their people and they should not conveniently withhold any information simply because they are anxious to boost their economies. Let people make their choices on this matter given where the science is at!

Dominicans, we must reject any attempt to mandate COVID-19 vaccines in Dominica. But I encourage you to make an informed choice. If you take a risk, take it with your eyes wide open! But I for one will not let anyone force me into doing anything that I think has the potential to be detrimental to me or to the wider society. At this stage, I am inclined to take a COVID-19 vaccine that uses traditional technology – that is a vaccine that uses an inactivated coronavirus to train the body's own immune system to react. Meanwhile, I am following all the COVID-19 protocols and I am boosting my immune system. Let us continue the discussion next week.

Kent Vital Economist