Under the Tobago House of Assembly Act, the THA is responsible for healthcare on the sister island and therefore there may be some who feel that the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines in Tobago should be subject to the policies of the THA.
While this may not be an untenable position, what appears to be unacceptable are reports that the AstraZeneca vaccines are being distributed to young members of the Assembly and some of the communication staff of the Division of Health Wellness and Family Development of the THA, even before frontline workers and the elderly with co-morbidities get access.
The notion that newly-elected Assemblyman Kelvin Morris could announce on social media that he was expected to get the vaccine and when challenged on it insisted that there was nothing wrong with it is unconscionable.
Lest we forget, Tobago got 10 per cent of the total from the first batch 33,600 vaccines received by this country, even though its population is less than five per cent. Therefore, it already means that it is twice easier to get the vaccine in Tobago than in Trinidad, based on raw numbers.
Beyond that, it is unacceptable that a freshman Assemblyman would be given the vaccine before Members of the Cabinet of T&T, or before Members of Parliament, who have been told they have to wait for when more vaccines arrive in the country.
Globally, the challenge to access vaccines is being played out as countries move to protect their populations from the coronavirus that has claimed so many lives. T&T has not been spared from its ravages.
The vaccine and the race to inoculate enough people and achieve herd immunity is a challenge for all governments and the reality is that T&T has dropped the ball and is playing catchup with other Caribbean countries, let alone the rest of the world.
It means that we have a responsibility to roll out the limited number of vaccines in keeping with best practice. Tobago is not unique and would do well to follow the global experiences of inoculating health workers and frontline staff, followed by the elderly, who are most vulnerable to the worst effects of the virus.
Everybody should be ultimately vaccinated, as it is the one way of ensuring that the country has an extra layer of protection so that citizens could return to a level of normalcy and start to rebuild an economy that has all but been brought to its knees by the impact of COVID-19. We are glad that Mr Morris and others in the THA are willing to be vaccinated but it must be done with order and respect for the process.
Tobago must know that with autonomy comes responsibility and it is disappointing to learn of the developments on the sister island.
Politicians have great responsibilities, the first of which is the protection of the most vulnerable in the society and we must ensure that those at greatest risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19 are the priority.
Nothing else is acceptable.