Opposition’s public mischief is a major factor in vaccine hesitancy in Guyana

The Opposition has a significant role to play in Guyana’s development. It cannot do so by embracing public mischief. Joseph Harmon’s Opposition appears clueless and does not seem to be able to function as an effective Opposition. Instead, it seeks to gain attention and demonstrate it is functional by seeking, on a daily basis, to create public mischief. When it is not Harmon himself, it is one of his MPs. The latest APNU/AFC MP to join in creating public mischief is Jermaine Figueira. He chose this week to join his leader, Joseph Harmon, in creating doubts in people’s minds about Guyana’s successful and effective COVID-19 vaccination programme. Everything that Joseph Harmon, speaking in his capacity as the Leader of the Opposition, has said about the COVID-19 vaccines, specifically about the Sputnik V vaccine, is fake news and he knows it. Jermaine Figueira, in the same deliberate way his leader has done in the past several weeks, decided to put out another fake story about the Sputnik V vaccine.
Before addressing Figueira’s bogus story, it is necessary to outline upfront what the Ministry of Health has very clearly stated – there is no expired vaccines being used in the vaccination programme. There is no such thing as thousands of doses of vaccines that will expire on July 1. Having dismissed that fake story, the latest malicious fake news coming from APNU’s MP, Jermaine Figueira, is that the Sputnik V vaccine in our possession will expire on July 1. I know we have not a single dose of Sputnik V vaccine in our bond that will expire on July 1, 2021. None of the vaccines in Guyana will expire on July 1. This is blatantly public mischief intended to derail the successful COVID-19 vaccination programme in Guyana. Jermaine Figueira is guilty of public mischief, just as the Leader of the Opposition has been for the past few weeks. The Ministry of Health and the Minister of Health himself have already assured the Guyanese people that at no time has the Ministry of Health ever utilised expired vaccines in the vaccination programme.
Mr Figueira has joined other colleagues in the Opposition as they try every angle to halt the success of the vaccination programme. None of the false stories they have concocted have gained traction. They tried questioning the price, the authenticity, the source of the vaccines and none of these false assertions and insinuations gained acceptance by the public. Having failed with those stories, they now make up a story that the vaccines will expire on July 1. Like all the other stories, this is also fake news. It is very reassuring that the Ministry of Health has not allowed people like Jermaine Figueira to spread false and reckless stories.
Mr Figueira prefaced his false story by highlighting the danger of the Delta variant of COVID-19 entering Guyana. Indeed, our gravest danger right now is the possibility of the Delta variant entering Guyana. Already in many countries, the Delta variant is the dominant form of the COVID-19 virus. We already know that the Delta variant is more efficient in transmission and deadlier than the original COVID-19 virus. In countries with high vaccination rates, the Delta variant is finding those without vaccines, making them very sick and raising death rates once again in these countries. It is clear that as of this time, the most effective weapon to stop the Delta variant from entering and spreading in Guyana is COVID-19 vaccination.
The question for Mr Figueira is what is he doing as an MP to help stop the Delta variant from coming to Guyana and from becoming the dominant COVID-19 virus in our country? While Government has the lead and most significant role in fighting the virus, every citizen must contribute. When that citizen happens to be an MP, no matter which side of the House he or she sits, that citizen has even more responsibility. Surely Mr Figueira cannot believe that he plays a positive role by spreading fake stories about the very vaccines that can save lives in Guyana. Every time MPs like Figueira deliberately or unknowingly spread fake stories insinuating bad things about the vaccines, they help to promote vaccine hesitancy.
Mr Figueira is an APNU/AFC MP from Region 10. Region 10 is a stronghold of APNU/AFC. Region 10 has the lowest vaccine uptake in the country. If there is a region in which vaccine hesitancy is a big problem, it is in Region 10. While Regions One, Four, Five and Six have surpassed 50 per cent of adults with at least one dose of vaccine, while Regions Two, Three, Seven and Nine have surpassed 40 per cent and are rapidly reaching 50 per cent of their adult population with at least one dose, and while Region Eight has surpassed 32 per cent, Region 10 has not yet reached 15 per cent of adults with at least one dose. There are many factors for vaccine hesitancy, but in Guyana, one major factor is the deliberate promotion of vaccine hesitancy by APNU/AFC. Vaccine hesitancy in Guyana is not something that APNU/AFC invented. But the public mischief by APNU/AFC MPs is helping to nurture and promote vaccine hesitancy. In doing so, the APNU/AFC MPS are heartlessly, shamelessly, recklessly putting people’s lives at risk.