Vaccination is a very personal choice, but it has ramifications for all of society. We therefore urge all residents who feel comfortable taking the Covid-19 vaccine to get the shot as soon as possible.
Starting on Feb. 11, the government plans to administer the initial 8,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine provided by the United Kingdom. The programme will prioritise frontline workers and the most vulnerable residents before opening the door to anyone who wants a shot.
This approach is reasonable and consistent with international standards, and the government is rightly accompanying the rollout with various education campaigns.
We hope the programme will be well supported. After all, the quicker residents get the shot, the quicker the Virgin Islands can get back on its feet by relaxing pandemic-related restrictions and rehabilitating its devastated economy.
Since everyone requires two doses, the initial shipment should cover 4,000 people. But another 12,000 doses on the way from the international Covax Facility should cover 6,000 more, and Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone has said that the government hopes to vaccinate at least 80 percent of the population, if not everyone.
We applaud this ambition. Some other countries are aiming to effectively vaccinate all of their residents, and the VI’s relatively tiny population of around 30,000 means the same goal could be within reach here.
Besides the benefits to the territory as a whole, vaccination comes with clear personal advantages.
The first, of course, is that the AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19, which can be deadly.
Additionally, vaccinated travellers are likely to have more freedom of movement in the near future, dispensing with some of the more onerous protocols and restrictions like quarantines.
For most residents, then, vaccination is a no-brainer.
Seniors have a little more to consider. Questions have arisen in recent days about giving the AstraZeneca shot to the elderly because of a lack of data focused on their age group in the initial trials. As a result, some European countries have recommended against administering the vaccine to people over 65 until more data is available.
But the European Medicines Agency has approved the use of Astrazeca for all adult age groups in the European Union, and the World Health Organisation, the Pan American Health Organisation, the UK, India, Mexico and Argentina have issued similar advice.
We agree with the VI government’s decision to do the same.
Anyone who is unsure about the vaccine, of course, should consult with a trusted doctor. Then as soon as they feel comfortable, they should get the shot.
Widespread vaccinations are a prerequisite to the territory’s overall recovery from the pandemic.