Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday he does not believe the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in The Bahamas is efficient enough to control the third wave of COVID cases the country is experiencing.
With COVID-19 cases surging in recent weeks, many expected Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to increase restrictions to mitigate the spread of the virus. But that has not happened, and the prime minister has instead called for better enforcement of existing measures.
Minnis has also said that access to a COVID vaccine makes restrictions less necessary than they were earlier in the pandemic, even though only 53,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been received in The Bahamas to date.
Davis, however, said the vaccine is losing the race against COVID in the country.
“These are the self-congratulatory remarks by the prime minister,” he said.
“He continues to pat himself on the back and celebrate too prematurely on his efforts.
“And the tool of the vaccine can only be effective if [it wins] its race against the spread.
“If the spread is continuing to rise, as we see, the virus is winning the race. We want the vaccine to win this race. And that requires vaccination in a manner that will be ahead of the spread, but you have to contain the spread as well.
“But the vaccination is the key and he needs to be more robust.
“He needs to access other vaccines, not just the AstraZeneca…to give the Bahamian people the option to decide which of the vaccines they would wish to have and also to have sufficient vaccine to ensure that all Bahamians who would wish to be vaccinated could get vaccinated.”
But Davis said there is still too much vaccine hesitancy, and called for greater efforts to educate the public and increase demand for the COVID vaccine.
“We have reached a stage where the slow rollout of the vaccine is causing what I call vaccine [hesitancy],” he said.
“People don’t really want to take it now. And we have to do something about encouraging our people to take the vaccine, letting them know the risk of not taking the vaccine [versus] the risk of taking it.
“That’s not being done. Public education is wanting in that regard. And so, you are going to see deaths if you don’t roll out the vaccine and do it more aggressively.
“And again, our management of this pandemic is sorely lacking and it doesn’t have to be this bad.”
Davis was also critical of the government’s handling of healthcare unions whose leaders have repeatedly raised concern over a lack of engagement from the government.
“The prime minister believes he is a doctor, so he doesn’t need to talk to doctors,” Davis said.
“But in a fight like this, you need to engage all of your stakeholders. And to craft effective policy, stakeholders, who are required to participate in what you are about to do, should be involved and engaged.
“So, again, it tells you what we have as a government – an arrogant, know-it-all, and ‘I don’t need to listen to anyone because I am a doctor.’”
The Bahamas recorded 1,262 cases of COVID-19 in April – more than double the cases recorded in March, and also more cases than were recorded during the first three months of the year combined.
As of Sunday, 10,576 COVID cases and 210 COVID-related deaths had been confirmed in The Bahamas. Twenty-four deaths were still under investigation, while 46 people were confirmed to have died with COVID-19 but not because of it.
Davis said the government could have done more to prevent the recent surge in cases and deaths.
“There is no doubt that this government is continually dropping the ball on our fight against this virus,” he said.
He noted that earlier this year, he called for the government to be proactive particularly given the potential for a COVID variant to enter the country.
“I told them that we needed to act now to prevent the spread here,” he said.
“And how do you do it? Through testing. It is clear that they don’t have a comprehensive plan for testing that will prevent the spread, because if they did, we would not have exponential spread as we are having. The other issue we raised was the issue of contact tracing.”
Davis added, “They didn’t do it then, and so hundreds of cases turned into thousands.
“And now, we are having thousands turning into more thousands because they did not heed our warning in [January].”