EDITORIAL: Planning as we wait for a vaccine

WE do not yet have a COVID-19 vaccination – that much we all know.

But as researchers around the world work on creating a vaccine, we need a plan for how we’re going to buy a vaccine – and how we will distribute it.

Yesterday, Health Minister Renward Wells revealed a plan to pay an initial downpayment of $2m which will secure around 80,000 vaccinations.

Now, that 80,000 is not every Bahamian – and so the obvious question is who will get the vaccine first.

“At the outset what we will do is we will seek to vaccinate those who are most vulnerable,” said Mr Wells, “healthcare workers, along those lines.”

COVID-19 has changed the thinking for many of who is essential in our society. While executives on high salaries work from home and remain in isolation, it is often some of the lowest paid in society who have been on the front lines keeping society going.

Of course, there are the healthcare professionals, and anything that can be done to limit the risk of the people who care for those suffering this illness is of use to us all. The more healthcare workers fit and able to work on the front lines, the better.

But we should also remember the others who have kept things going. The shop workers. The gas station workers. Indeed, as we see children return to school we might find teachers on that list of essential workers.

Many might say well, what about me? But the goal of a vaccine is not just to protect the person who receives it, but those around them too.

Each person who is resistant to the virus is one less opportunity for the virus to spread. If one fifth of the nation is vaccinated, that reduces the risk by a huge amount. It is, however, only the start. Further vaccinations will also be needed – with the goal of reaching something called herd immunity. That is achieved at around 60 to 70 percent of the population having some degree of protection – either through the vaccine or through developing antibodies having caught the virus.

As it stands, we have just over 3,000 confirmed cases, less than one percent of our total population. So between the 80,000 vaccinations and cases, we would have to roughly treble the number of people protected in some fashion to protect the nation as a whole.

Every person protected takes us closer. Every person protected makes it harder for the virus to take hold and put others at risk. The point is that to protect anyone, we need to protect everyone.

We may not have the vaccine yet. But we have a plan – and a place to start.

Shanty towns again

A familiar story is playing out once more on Abaco.

A number of illegal structures have been built, and the government is preparing to evict the residents, possibly displacing hundreds of people.

One area being highlighted is the Farm Road area, where apparently around 200 dwellings have been built since July, swelling the number there to 400.

A few things need to happen – first, the government needs to ensure these properties truly are not legal. We have had too many cases in the past where crackdowns have been announced and then it has turned out that people had rights in one manner or another to the land on which they were building the property.

Abaco has presumably attracted a number of people who are living there in hope of finding work carrying out reconstruction – and as much as the government cracks down on illegal properties, so too should they be cracking down on illegal employers.

We would also ask – given government reassurances of late despite local criticism that there are enough police on Abaco to prevent crime – how on earth did these properties get built unnoticed?

A total of 200 houses built and nobody raised an eyebrow?

We would also remind the government there needs to be a plan for where these people might go – because if you knock the house down but don’t have a plan for the people living in it, then you’ll find another illegal property springing up next month.

We’re not the only ones saying it – one local resident asked the same, saying “Is there any place where these people are going to go and (one MP) said they could stay by friends and other people. And so, (a) pastor said one of the greatest concerns is during this pandemic, you have people all over the place and it’s going to become a panic.”

We sincerely hope every aspect of this has been thought through – rather than just kicking the can down the road, and spreading the virus as we go.