Wed | Dec 1, 2021

Unethical vaccine bribe

Published:Wednesday | March 17, 2021 | 12:22 AM


On Tuesday, March 9, Dr Nigel Clarke, in the Budget Debate, highlighted the Government’s $60-billion fund geared towards the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines as well as to help stimulate economic recovery during the post-pandemic era. This is much welcomed news, considering that due to the pandemic, over 100,000 persons have been left unemployed and we have seen a sharp contraction in the economy, with the Planning Institute of Jamaica predicting an unprecedented 12 per cent contraction of the economy in the fiscal year ending March 2021.

During his presentation, Dr Clarke announced something that I consider to be very troubling: persons over the age of 60 with no formal means of earning income or collecting a pension of less that $1.5 million dollars per annum can benefit from a $10,000 grant if they are vaccinated. This benefit is slated to help a minimum of 100,000 people.

Prior to my decision to pen this letter, I waited for responses from media as well as the relevant stakeholders in the healthcare sector, including and not limited to our doctors and their representative body, the Medical Association of Jamaica, and our respected local academics. Apart from the front page headline of the Wednesday, March, 10, 2021 publication of The Gleaner, ‘Vaccine tease’, and a reaction from Dr Eldemire-Shearer, a few murmurs on social media, very little has been said to address what I deeply consider to be an unethical move by the Government of Jamaica.

“The end doesn’t justify the means,” is one of the earliest lessons I learnt in ethics, and it is very much applicable to the situation at hand. The Holness-led administration is trying to aggressively push the nation towards achieving herd immunity, by taking what seems to be an any-means-necessary approach. While the end-game is very much understandable, the means by which we are trying to get there is a cause for concern. I cannot fathom that a group of well-educated individuals met and agreed that it would have been a wise and ethical decision to withhold aid from people who desperately need it and then dangle it above their heads in exchange for accepting medicine that they quite possibly do not want. Imagine if a medical professional was to do the same, and essentially bribe a patient into accepting treatment? It would be grounds for being struck from the register. As with any medical procedure, vaccines have benefits and risks. As a clinician, before performing any procedure on a patient, I am required to outline the benefits and the risks as identified in research and then allow the patient to make an informed decision which they deem to be the most appropriate. Coercive methods, such as financial incentives, should never be used to encourage medical treatment, including vaccines. Engaging in these tactics undermines the public’s trust in the healthcare system. Dr Clarke, as the name of the initiative suggests, the Government is elected into office to serve the people, and part of that is providing aid for those in need. I think it’s fair to expect that my government, our government help the vulnerable in an ethical manner without playing games with their social welfare.


General Dentist & Concerned Citizen