Another Missed Opportunity by the Jamaican Government

L Bronson

Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his administration have been whining about the low vaccination rate of Jamaicans and the attending consequences expected in the short term.

It is said that less than 13 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, a process long believed to be the main vehicle to take the country, and the world at large, beyond COVID-19.

News also emerged that about 150,000 doses of vaccination will expire in a matter of days as citizens continue to refuse to take the jab.

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In an environment rife with conspiracies, misinformation and distrust, it is the government’s job to convince its populace with all legal tools and mechanisms available while being totally transparent and honest with its people.

Last month, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) applied for permission to have some vaccinated spectators attend the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Canada at the National Stadium and in the week of the event the government rejected the request.

On Wednesday, the Local Government and Rural Development Ministry issued a release indicating that it had also rejected the application for fully vaccinated spectators to attend the next qualifier against the US on November 16.

There is the dictum that “Justice must not only be done but must also be seen to be done.”

There were many who thought justice was not seen to be done in either situation as they pointed to Caymanas Park in St Catherine where horse racing takes place with spectators, vaccinated and unvaccinated, as one example of a double standard.

Why is one allowed and the other denied?

The JFF is currently in a perilous position as it generates most of its funding from gate receipts and after six games of the 14 for the Final Phase of qualification, it hasn’t been able to earn a cent from gate receipts.

The two games played at the National Stadium this far were without spectators. Not to mention that Jamaica is the only country in the final eight battling for three and a half places to the Qatar World Cup Final playing home games without spectators.

So realizing that the JFF is unable to generate funds from gate receipts, one would have expected that the Government would have assisted the program financially like it did and has always done in the past with additional funds outside of the monthly subvention from the Sports Development Foundation.

But, no. Nothing.

It was this same government that had granted permission for spectators to attend National Trials at the Stadium earlier this summer.

But in the wider scheme of fighting this pandemic, has the government really done everything possible to encourage its citizens to take the jab?

From where this writer stands, it has dropped the ball yet again and missed a real opportunity to incentivize those who took the jab.

This stance can be viewed as punishment for the vaccinated. Why not reward them with the freedom to attend an important football game and a return to normal life, even while still observing the necessary protocols?

Why not use the occasion as a marketing campaign to encourage others to get vaccinated and earn the chance to attend the match via tickets paid for by the government?

Why did the government not set up a vaccination site at the Stadium complex on the day of the match and have spectators get the jab with the incentive of earning tickets to the next game in January?

There is so much that could have been done with these games to encourage, instead the opportunities are wasted.

It’s time those given the platform to lead do so and do so to the benefit of all concerned. This is the time when true leaders come to the fore.