SABA–Commissioner of Finance, Education, Economic Affairs, Tourism, Infrastructure and Constitutional Affairs Bruce Zagers said in a statement on Monday that vaccination against COVID-19 is imperative for Saba and its people to regain some normalcy, and to revitalise the local economy. Vaccination is slated to start mid-February.
“This year it is important that we make the necessary strides to get back on track. Ensuring that our economy is revitalised and that specialised health care and referrals become more assessable will need to be a priority on every level. Reopening our borders for tourism and getting several projects such as the construction of the new harbour back online will definitely aid us is stabilising our economy and with the creation of jobs.”
According to Zagers, a possible prerequisite to these developments will greatly be determined by the willingness of the Saba people to be vaccinated once the vaccine becomes available.
“It is understandable that many are cautious about being vaccinated for COVID-19. I know many of you are in a wait-and-see mode because there is an underlying fear that the vaccine has been created so quickly. However, I personally find solace knowing that this has been a multinational effort where billions of dollars have been invested in research, while some of the world’s most gifted and talented minds worked tirelessly to develop such a vaccine that will save lives globally and can protect us from the virus.”
Saba is in the unique situation with the Netherlands having committed to sending enough vaccines for the entire adult population to be vaccinated.
“I have heard many say that they do not want to be ‘guinea pigs’ for the vaccine. However, we must realise that by the time we receive the vaccine in Saba, tens of millions of people will have already been vaccinated worldwide. We must also realise that if we want to open our borders and if we want to travel freely, being vaccinated will be of utmost importance. This is an opportunity for us to regain freedom; a sort of return to normalcy.”
Taking the vaccine will not be mandatory, but Zagers urged everyone to take advantage of this opportunity. The demand for the vaccine is extremely high, resulting in a worldwide shortage. Many countries, including first-world countries, will have to wait months, and in some cases years, before there are sufficient doses to vaccinate their people.
“The opportunity that we are gifted with is unique, but also one that we should not take for granted. I can assure you that when the programme starts in Saba, that I will get vaccinated. I will do this for my own protection and for those who are around me.
“In the coming days and weeks there will an intensive information campaign starting with two townhall meetings this week. I encourage you to not only focus on the negative headlines which tend to appear on various social-media outlets, but to also follow the real, well-sourced news which outlines the positives about the vaccine.”
Zagers noted that this new year started out with the opportunity for people to make a significant step back to normalcy. “Many of our initiatives and goals for 2021 will greatly depend on our decisions within the next few weeks. Making an informed decision, and not an emotional one, about the vaccine is paramount. I will accept the vaccine with confidence. I hope that you will too.”
He said it is important to approach this new year with renewed optimism and energy, and to use the life lessons from last year as a learning experience. “I urge you to be open to change, to always be prepared and, most importantly, appreciate the little things in life. Everything in Saba may not be perfect, but the freedoms and opportunities that we often take for granted are lacking or in many cases not even possible for many in our region or in the world.”