While I understand and share the concerns expressed by employees at St Georges University’s (SGU), it will be significantly challenging to influence a reversal of the University’s position, in view of positive outcomes realized from worldwide vaccination. We now learn that fully vaccinated individuals are protected against the new deadly Gamma and Delta variants, making vaccination a safe alternative against the virus that swept through India, England, and many other countries. To date, 179 million cases have been reported. This is broken down into 3.87 million deaths worldwide, 602, 000 deaths in the United States, 503,000 in Brazil and one case in Grenada. Despite the fact that the infection rate is high in many areas, the number of worldwide COVID-19 cases is decreasing, economies are opening again, business transactions have exponentially increased, travel and full in-person classes are returning to normal.
Small island states like Grenada were negatively affected by COVID-19 and over 152 Grenadians died in the New York Metropolitan area. I lost two of my surgical colleagues to the infection and was shocked to hear of the death Roy Hastick, Sr. He was one of the most preeminent internationally known Grenadian businessmen; these losses are irreplaceable. In Grenada, as well as many other countries, several businesses, even those with historical significance, were forced to close, some permanently and others are finding enormous challenges recouping financial losses. For many reasons, the pandemic has eternally reconfigured the entire business landscape of the world. Currently, the vaccine is the most pragmatic solution to a safe return to normalcy. In the absence of mass vaccination, many more lives will be lost; countries will approach bankruptcy and financial ruin.
The current discussions that revolve around St George’s University’s decision, speak clearly to public safety vs personal choice ie First amendment rights. The much talked about legislation has its limitations that may be based on individual presentation and its effect on social and political processes. In this instance, the university has the right to establish policies that support its best interest and guidelines that protect the health of employees, the rights of which, if violated, will have enormous financial penalties. Businesses have the right to choose locations that favor economic ventures. With this in mind, one should acquire no security from the idea that Grenada can and would be the last stop of any business enterprise that chooses to secure the interest of investors and the aspirations of future medical professionals.
Similarly, employees have the right to refuse the vaccine if they feel that it does not provide traditional protection as other vaccines. In the whole scheme of things, it is not about right vs wrong as it is about safety. Hence many hospitals have mandated COVID-19 vaccination to save the lives of patients, employees and families. In a health crisis, health delivery systems that put patients’ safety first and promote the best treatment outcomes are chosen. An interesting article appeared in the June 18, 2021, online edition of the Becker’s Hospital Review depicting a list of prominent hospitals that mandated COVID-19 vaccination. The employees lost the legal appeal. As a follow-up, (as of June 22, 2021), over 100 of these employees were terminated. Several years ago, the Massachusetts Nurses Association similarly sued the State and health care institution. They indicated that nurses must not be mandated to take the annual flu vaccine, which annually causes the death of approximately 34,000 to 43,000 individuals. They lost the petition by failing to make a convincing argument.
The COVID-19 vaccine is the result of new scientific advances, all of which have shown promising and authentically admirable results which decrease infection rates, decrease hospitalization, increase immunity and other established research criteria of success. Just imagine what would have happened if vaccines were not produced to protect the peoples of the world. The COVID-19 vaccine has been proven to be the panacea, amid new emerging variants and continued spread of the virus. People who choose not to take the vaccine must produce strong medical evidenced-based conclusions. In the absence of such, their decisions are otherwise based on personal conclusions or the influence of social media, etcetera which lack scientific analysis.
Some people of African descent express concern that the vaccine which is experimental is designed to “wipe out black people” and should not be trusted. In the midst of this argument, a significant number of Blacks have died from COVID-19 and other preventable diseases. A decision for a lifesaving remedy i.e, vaccine, in my judgement is a sound alternative. All things being equal, Grenada may not be able to withstand a “true COVID-19” pandemic or outbreak, because of the potentially significant challenge that will be placed on the current medical infrastructure.
Rhetorically, who will assume responsibility for an employee related COVID-19 outbreak (with loss of life) at SGU? Would an outbreak force the University to reconsider its strategic options of using Grenada as its sole site of business? I remember Saint Vincent was one of the collaborative medical campus many years ago and recently Ross University transition from Dominica to Barbados. These decisions impart severe economic damages and hardship on countries. The question is whether the decision to take the COVID-19 vaccine is evidenced based, provides public safety, and is developed from science with genuine authentic results and outcomes. If the answer is yes, then one should take the jab. If the answer is no, then one “should run for the hills” because your life may be in danger.