Sat | Nov 27, 2021

Science, not fear, should be guiding compass in this age of COVID-19

Published:Sunday | December 13, 2020 | 12:16 AMWayne Campbell - Contributor

‘Bill’ William Shakespeare, 81, receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry, England on Friday.
‘Bill’ William Shakespeare, 81, receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry, England on Friday.

“And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.”

– Revelation 13:16-17

Are these the end times? Whether we are Christians or not, we have heard about the Mark of the Beast. For many of us, the Book of Revelation drives fear into our hearts as it addresses issues regarding the end of the world.

Many theologians, as well as laypersons, have had a fascination with the end of the times narrative since time immemorial. In early times there was much talk in certain quarters that the Mark of the Beast was a man. Many bets have been made regarding who is this Mark of the Beast. Countless movies, books and other artistic art forms have tried to depict what the ‘Beast’ will look like.

It was extremely popular, especially among those who subscribe to the Rastafarian faith, to point finger at the Vatican City in Rome. However, we have seen in our lifetime the death of a few popes. It has been debated over the centuries whether or not we should take the Bible literally, given the numerous imageries that have been used. It requires our consideration that perhaps the Mark of the Beast is not a person, but more a worldwide system of control, trade and governance in which the Earth’s inhabitants will be forced to accept this ‘mark’ in order to travel and access goods and services.

It is a most intriguing time for anti-vaxxers who have said repeatedly that the COVID-19 vaccine will include a microchip which will be used to track our every minute location. Anti-vaxxers have been responsible for spreading a lot of misinformation surrounding vaccines.

In recent times there have been protests against the COVID-19 vaccine all across Europe, resulting in numerous arrests. One of the most widely spread myths regarding vaccines is that vaccination causes autism and other development disorders in children. Undoubtedly, once the average person hears of microchip they immediately become suspicious and sceptical.

A number of individuals are wary of how quickly a coronavirus vaccine has been developed. In some discussions it has been mentioned that healthcare workers will be among the first to receive this COVID-19 vaccine.

There are still some unanswered questions regarding whether more than one dose of the vaccine will be required to offer protection from the coronavirus. Will health insurance providers pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?

ACCESSIBILITY OF VACCINE FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

The United Kingdom, which has been severely impacted by COVID-19, was the first country to start distributing the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also authorised emergency approval of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech.

Anna Marriott, health policy manager, Oxfam states, “The number one challenge we’re seeing is the unprecedented scale of supply that is needed. So actually producing enough of the vaccine is one of the biggest constraints. It’s very clear that unless the companies relinquish their control (on intellectual property) ... and enable more producers to produce the vaccine, we are definitely not going to get to the supply that we need, as quickly as we need it.”

A number of pharmaceutical companies have already tested potential COVID vaccines: Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax are among them. There are also potential COVID-19 vaccines from Russia, China, Cuba and India.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi COVAX AMC, a financing mechanism, will support 92 low- and middle-income economies’ access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. The approximately US$360 million in commitments include US$350 million announced at the Paris Peace Forum by the European Commission, France, Spain and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as an earlier pledge of US$10 million made by the Republic of Korea.

This means that more than US$2 billion has been raised for the Gavi COVAX AMC so far, thanks to contributions from other sovereign donors, the private sector, and philanthropic sources. This funding will allow COVAX AMC to reserve and access one billion doses for AMC-eligible economies, with at least US$5 billion needed in 2021 to procure doses as they come through the portfolio.

According to Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, “We are incredibly grateful for the support received so far. This vital funding not only helps us ensure lower-income economies aren’t left at the back of the queue when safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines become available, it will also play a vital role in ending the acute phase of this pandemic worldwide.”

COVAX is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to economies of all financial means.

NO INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL WITHOUT COVID-19 VACCINATION?

Recently, there was a news story involving the chief executive officer (CEO) of one of the most popular airlines. The news item was on Qantas, Australia’s national airline. In an online news article, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce declared international travellers must have a COVID-19 vaccine to get on a flight.

Joyce isn’t the only one thinking about changes to international travel. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a group of 297 airlines including Qantas, is calling for systematic COVID-19 testing of all international travellers.

It would be newsworthy to know whether regional airline Caribbean Airline was part of the group of 297 airlines and what is their position regarding international travel.

MANAGING THROUGH A PANDEMIC

The online article added that in order to help support this, a new vaccine passport app was in the final development phase. This app will record if someone has been vaccinated, and share the information with airlines and immigration authorities. It’s due to be piloted later this year, ahead of a launch early in 2021.

To say we are in interesting times is an understatement. Whether people will have access to their favourite goods and services if they do not get the vaccine is more complicated. The entire world has been buzzing with that possibility on the horizon.

It has been just about a year since the novel coronavirus has unleashed upon the world mass destruction, pain, death, suffering and multiple waves of depression.

The entire world is in a lockdown; lives and livelihoods have been upended. There is a new normal; one in which masks are worn publicly, hand sanitisation and social distancing is the preferred choice. We are in an age of changing protocols, and as such we need to ask whether employment in the future will be tied to a COVID-19 vaccination. Will educational institutions require proof of COVID-19 vaccination being admission?

Sadly, accompanying this new world order are the triple threats to humanity: isolation, depression and suicide. There is a fear factor across the globe in which many folks are barely or frankly speaking not coping with the many aspects of this pandemic.

These uncharted times call for us to be vigilant as well as to use our various platforms to influence the discussion as we try to receive answers on behalf of the many who are not so privileged. We should be reminded in this age of COVID-19 that science and not fear should be our guiding compass. The international community is in the midst of a war, and as such we must arm ourselves with scientific-based data in order to crush this pandemic.

In Jamaica, more than 270 individuals have died from COVID-19, and more than 11,500 people have been infected. On the global scene, more than 1.5 million people have died and more than 71 million people have been infected by the coronavirus.

The numbers regarding this virus is troubling, to say the least. Many countries are currently in their second or even third wave of lockdown in an attempt to curb the spread of this virus.

The discovery of a safe and effective vaccine is not enough; the general public must trust the science behind the development of this vaccine and be willing take it.

In the words of William Foege: “vaccines are the tugboats of preventative health”.

n Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and/or gender issues. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and waykam@yahoo.com. @WayneCamo