PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – Party for Progress members of Parliament Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson submitted critical questions regarding Country St. Maarten’s vaccination plan to Minister of VSA, Richard Panneflek.
In their letter, PFP explains that prior to the recently held IPKO session, the Parliament of St. Maarten received a COVID update from the Ministry of VSA. In the brief, Parliament was informed that the first working group on vaccines was held on 8 December 2020 and that additional groups were working on vaccine legislation and procurement, logistics, delivery, and communication, among other topics. The groups were meant to finalize and operationalize the implementation plans for St. Maarten’s vaccination plan over the last few weeks of 2020. The faction requests an update from the Ministry of VSA regarding the number of vaccines being made available to St. Maarten and whether or not
“We’re now eighteen days into 2021,” Gumbs stated in a comment to the media, “with no further updates. Taking into consideration the substantial requirements for receiving, storing and administering a vaccine, it would seem that the Government should have been further along. At this time, not even the question of ‘how many vaccines are we getting?’ cannot be answered.”
The faction further asked for an outline of logistical scenarios that have been mapped out for vaccine deployment, including registration for vaccination, human resources for actual administering of the vaccine and, perhaps most importantly, refrigeration capabilities for doses. Poor refrigeration can causesdoses to be rendered unusable, thus limiting the number of persons who can receive the vaccine. Further to this, PFP asks the Minister to clarify what priority lists have been developed, highlighting the exposure vulnerability of frontline healthcare workers and first responders, justice workers, and 65+ citizens.
“Most countries and US states are prioritizing front-line healthcare workers as vaccine recipients,” the statement continues. “It would be our hope that we follow suit, and that this prioritization is expanded to include justice workers, particularly Immigration and KPSM, as they are more likely to come into contact with any visitors to the island and can therefore be considered a vulnerable group.
Additionally, the faction expressed concern over the impact that public perception on vaccination, both local and international, may have on the country’s recovering economy. In their statement to the media, both MPs state that they’ve taken note of the ongoing discussions in the community, whether pro or against the vaccine, but caution against personal positions going against global norms and trends.
“The global trend, particularly in our key tourism markets, is leaning towards vaccines being strongly recommended or mandatory before travel,” Peterson said. “Whatever side we as MPs or Ministers as Government land on when it comes to the pro or contra vaccine debate, Government has to consider the implications this will have on our tourism-based economy. This makes it even more vital that we have a roll out plan for vaccination for St. Maarten, especially considering that our neighbors to the North have already begun their deployment.”
The faction requested the Minister’s response to their questions by the end of this week, considering the time-critical nature of the matter.