Dear people of the Caribbean:
Ignorance is not bliss. It is deadly, it quite literally kills. Over the past month I have been alarmed at the American copy-cat anti-vaxer demonstrations taking place across the Caribbean region, egged on by irresponsible so-called religious and asinine civic leaders, preying on the genuine fears, anxieties and ignorance of the population, as the COVID-19 Pandemic rages on. Let me be clear: this manufactured ignorance, anti-science memes and propaganda packaged as education will have a most devastating impact on the region already struggling from a 65% decline in the key tourism industry (2020) revenues, and a steep drop in regional economic performance. In fact, ALL of the members of CARICOM, including the OECS countries, constitute the most tourism-dependent region in the world.
Already you are seeing an alarming upsurge in COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths. And IT'S GOING TO GET FAR, FAR WORSE. So, brace yourselves for a very, very rough ride ahead. Understand this: CARICOM nations are seeing the very EARLY STAGES of a deadly regional epidemic that the vast majority of member-nations are not prepared or capable or equipped to handle. The United States, for example - one of the richest and most technologically advanced nations in the world - is still, today, reeling under the heavy weight of this crippling and deadly pandemic that has killed over 600,000 Americans - and counting.
And the Caribbean immigrant community in Brooklyn was the HARDEST HIT section by the pandemic in the Black community, and it continues to be disproportionately affected by it. Literally thousands have already died as a result. Just this past weeks I visited an open-air memorial service in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn for hundreds of Guyanese immigrants felled by the virus. One funeral home director spoke of being "surrounded by as much as 150 bodies" a day in his funeral home, and having to cremate or bury over 500 people in 2 months. Let that sink in.
People, this is real! I can attest to this brutal and deadly disease since I am also a COVID-19 survivor. Over a 16-day period in April 2020 I could have died any day from the cumulative onslaught of the disease. It took me ONE YEAR to get back to some semblance of normalcy, to regain my strength and put back the weight that I lost. Today, I STILL SUFFER FROM LONG HAUL COVID-19 SYMPTOMS - Every Day. But I am one of the fortunate ones. I will never see many of my friends again. So again, let me be clear: there are ONLY TWO WAYS out of this health crisis. 1. Get vaccinated and 2. Allow the virus to infect and kill thousands of people to reach so-called "herd immunity." Before I discuss the various vaccines let me address the baseless, unscientific plethora of disinformation and misinformation "out there," pushed on social media by people who view science as a criminal enterprise.
You cannot cure this virus with herbal remedies or "bush medicines" or more vitamin C. The silly, ignorant and nonsensical "mixtures" of Tumeric, Ginger, honey and garlic CANNOT cure the COVID-19 disease or kill the virus. If that was the case the disease would have ended a long time ago. Local plant concoctions created by unqualified quacks and charlatans DO NOT and WILL NOT WORK - PERIOD. Praying, fasting and listening to religious leaders unqualified to speak to and about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the very nature of the coronavirus, only adds to the confusion and opportunistically preys on the superstitions, fears and ignorance or the masses. Musical celebrities and others who publicly refuse to take the vaccine it's THEIR CHOICE and they are NOT QUALIFIED to make an educated conclusion about the vaccine, its merits, or the virus. It's like you getting sick and being diagnosed by a motor mechanic. And yes, people have been praying since the start of the pandemic (and centuries before) without ANY results, positive or negative. While I respect people's religious beliefs, I have long come to the conclusion that God either is not listening or does not care. We're on our own and all we have is science.
So, let me talk about the COVID-19 vaccines.When you get any vaccine (TB, Chicken Pox, Mumps, Measles etc.), it activates your immune response to these diseases. This helps your body learn to fight off the virus without the danger of an actual infection. If you are exposed to these viruses in the future, your immune system "remembers" how to fight it. From ALL scientifically reviewed data by scientists from around the world, all authorized COVID-19 vaccines provide strong protection against serious illness, hospitalizations, and possible death, due to COVID-19. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use messenger RNA, or mRNA. BTW mRNA is NOT DNA nor can it alter your cell structure. mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus. They give your bodies "instructions" for how to make and fight the spike-shaped proteins that will protect against a COVID-19 infection - hence the "M" for "messenger." While these vaccines use new technology, researchers have been studying them for decades. What is new with the COVID-19 Pandemic is that Chinese scientists were the first to crack the gnome code of the Coronavirus, and published the results online making it available and easy for scientists in over 180 countries to collaborate on a vaccine(s). That and the fact that the United States and other advanced nations pumped billions of dollars into vaccine research and development that helped to speed up the process by months not years. Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine is a viral vector vaccine and also does not contain a live virus. It uses a harmless adenovirus to create a spike protein that the immune system responds to creating antibodies to protect against COVID-19. None of these vaccines can give you COVID-19. None of them have "microchips" in them as some uninformed and ignorant people allege. mRNA is NOT the Mark of the Beast (the numerical spelling of Emperor Nero) as some allage. It takes time for your body to build immunity after vaccination, so you won't have full protection until 2 weeks after your final dose. That's it, people! I took the Pfizer vaccine with no ill-effects up to now. In fact, I took it 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon and by 6:00 p.m. my buddies and I - all now fully vaccinated - were having a few Coors Lights at a local watering hole. Finally, my persistent and present fear for the Caribbean is that the virus will run rampant and cripple weak, ill-equipped, and ill-prepared healthcare systems that can be easily overwhelmed as COVID-19 cases continue to rise rapidly. I also have a beef with the sporadic, erratic public education and messaging by CARICOM governments when it comes to COVID-19. This adds to a looming really dangerous mix of ignorance, anti-vaccination misinformation, religious opportunistic and reckless disinformation, quackery, superstition and anti-science religious propaganda. The Caribbean is now facing a very, very rough road ahead. Final word? Get vaccinated!