Hundreds of spills off Gulf of Paria having ‘dire’ impact on local fishing in one of the most biodiverse areas of Trinidad and Tobago. The region’s oil industry has come under increasing fire as the Gulf of Paria has been plagued by spills over the past few years. A freedom of information request carried out in April by Fishermen and Friends of the Sea [FFOS] revealed there have been 498 reported oil spills on land and at sea since the beginning of 2018.
The most important voice in the debate on Covid19, vaccines and re-opening the economy are the workers who have maintained, defended and protected the foundations of the economy and the society, especially since Lockdown began in March 2020. Their voice, concerns and proposals for opening up or not and how to do so are paramount. To vaccinate or not is secondary debate and a personal matter for each individual and not the reason for a manufactured controversy manipulated to create splits and tension in the society when calm, rationality and objectivity is vital. Apparently disingenuous arguments of the government whilst seeming to violate the right to a livelihood of workers seems to be behind Union leaders skepticism on vaccines. Reports that the governments apparent ultimatums are mirrored in practice with the business community imposing vaccine ultimatums on workers attest to this. Same companies who reportedly prioritise profit over employees health safety and workers right to a livelihood. Workers TU leaders are obliged to take a stand in defence of their members rights.
The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the major trade unions representing public sector workers may be heading for a confrontation over vaccination against COVID-19. The Public Service Union, Teachers’ Union and Police Welfare Association recently wrote to the government asking for an urgent meeting to discuss the policy that says government workers who have not taken a COVID-19 jab must be tested as regularly as every two weeks.
With soil, waterways, livestock and agricultural stocks poisoned, thousands of people have been physically affected. An estimated 95 percent of Guadeloupeans and 92 percent of Martiniquans have been exposed to the pesticide, and the departments had the highest rates of prostate cancer in the world in 2018. A parliamentary committee of inquiry led by Martiniquan member of Parliament Serge Letchimy has demonstrated that the contamination could affect children’s brain development and increase the risk of premature births. According to the document, the state has been aware of the potential danger of chlordecone since 1969.
As of this writing, there are six approved vaccines and over 50 candidates in development. In the UK, the NHS recently started administering the Pfizer BioNTech mRNA vaccine, and the US followed suit one week later. COVID19 vaccine development has reinvigorated a certain type of vaccine nationalism not seen for decades. Each vaccine or candidate gets a particular pedigree, narrative and aura of trustworthiness according to its origins. The vaccines and candidates are a mix of private-sector developed or public/private partnership, with only a few candidates from universities or the public sector (WHO, 2020). In Cuba’s state-run socialist biopharmaceutical system, their new COVID19 vaccine, called Soberana or “The Sovereign,” is effortlessly enfolded into a long-standing national narrative of vaccine prowess.
It is clear that governments across the region are failing their citizens with regard to providing healthcare. Underpinning this lack is the fact that many regional governments pay out more in debt servicing than they invest in developing the healthcare systems. This means that they are left holding out a begging bowl when confronted by health care challenges.
Should any of these efforts ultimately succeed, the Caribbean nation — already a medical powerhouse that has developed a lung cancer vaccine and methods to stop mother-to-baby HIV and syphilis transmission — will likely become an important supplier to other Latin American and developing countries who have been effectively shut out from purchasing COVID vaccines from Western companies, as rich nations have already begun hoarding coronavirus medicines.
In 2018, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) contracted the Canadian research firm of Dunn, Pierre, Barnett and Company Limited to conduct a comprehensive study into issues impacting the migration of Health Workers in the Caribbean region.
As the the world remains fixated with Covid 19, other significant public health threats are being overlooked. The ongoing dengue fever outbreak in the Caribbean is one such. The devastating effect this is having on people's health is a further sign of the failure of those in power, which in Martinique's case is France's colonial authorities, to provide people with a modern health care system.
The candidate vaccine that the island is producing is advancing steadily. Since clinical trials began on August 24, "it has reported zero serious adverse events after the injection of the first 20 volunteers," tweeted Dagmar García Rivera, director of research at the Finlay Institute, the Cuban state scientific centre that is directing the project. The sample will include 676 people between the ages of 19 and 80 with the results expected on February 1. In the event there is a happy ending, Cuba will have its own vaccine available to the population in the first quarter of 2021.