The planned debate for tomorrow between those in favor and those against the Covid-19 vaccine has been put on pause. The decision came following pressures from Prime Minister John Briceno who called into The Morning Show today, condemning Love FM for giving a voice to the anti-vaxxers. He went further by saying that those people should not be entertained and that doing so will be a disservice to the country. It was an unsettling 9-minute exchange which contradicts Briceno’s previous statements on freedom of the press and the right to freedom of speech which he delivered when he was the Leader of the Opposition. Here is a snippet of the Prime Minister’s comments.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “I’m very disappointed to hear that you are going to have supposedly a debate with these anti vaxxers, you know people that are against the vaccine. And whilst I know they may feel they have a right to speak out but you don’t have a right to go in a theater and say fire because the people can get hurt, the same thing applies to this issue. And now for you to go and make those people come – some people will be laughing at what some of these people the ridiculous things that they say but there are going to be people that will believe what is being said. I must tell you I’m really disappointed that you guys are going to provide such a forum for these people. It is a disservice to this country and to the people of Belize. I felt it was important for me to tell you how I feel and how many people feel because many people feel the same way; that you’re giving a forum to people who are just going to confuse more our people by not wanting to take the vaccine. I have my in-laws you know it has taken a lot of work for me to convince them that the vaccine is safe and they need to get vaccinated so now they will get vaccinated and now you will have a bunch of people that will just confuse people ? It’s really wrong and I know you want to give the people a chance for people to look at both sides of it but in this instance, on this case it’s a wrong one. We cannot afford to confuse people not to get vaccinated. In this instance if you have a hundred thousand people that are still afraid of getting vaccinated and we continue the positive campaign we could get the vast majority of them to be able to take the vaccine and you know there still is this theory about herd immunity that if we could hit 80% then we could probably contain the spread of the virus but if you still have these hundred thousand people that are still very concerned and can’t make up their mind and then you bring these people up on the main stream – because you’re going to put them on Love FM, Love FM is the main stream. You are giving this forum to confuse these hundred thousand people and if they could then of this hundred thousand people they get fifty thousand not to take the vaccine they have succeeded. They have succeeded because all they’re doing is confusing people and putting fear in people.”
Following the statements made by Prime Minister John Briceno the Love FM Debate producers met with the company’s legal team and has subsequently decided ot hold off on the debate. And while we met up with our attorneys, our news team was in the north where they interviewed Ministers Michel Chebat and Kevin Bernard who also spoke on the debate.
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Dr.Cuellar is as good as you’re gonna get. I mean he speaks with authority, he speaks with experience what can I tell you Hipolito ? I don’t want to get into that debate. I believe that people have a right to express what they feel but when you’re expressions are baseless and what you’re doing is fear mongering then I have a real problem with that. I have a real problem with that and this is what they’re doing. There’s no scientific basis for anything they are saying and that is the problem that I have it.”
Reporter: And there you come with Dr.Cuellar coming with scientific basis.
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “An imminent doctor steep in the profession, well respected how can you argue with somebody like that ?”
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Youth, Sports and E Governance: “While we have the pros and cons yes man go look at the people that are going against this thing. The organizers of these anti vaxxers their credibility is questionable.”
Reporter: Their claims are baseless but I’m saying that is it that you’re denying that anti vaxxers walk among us ?
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Youth, Sports and E Governance: “I’m not saying that. There are people that may say ‘I won’t take that vaccine.'”
Reporter: And they continue to spread their too whether Whatsapp, Facebook.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Youth, Sports and E Governance: “Right I agree with what you’re saying.”
Reporter: There’s no aggressive fight against them to debunk them. To tell them you are spreading lies because people believe those lies.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Youth, Sports and E Governance: ” I agree with what you’re saying and that position but this is where I’m saying this is the reason why I mentioned earlier that the Ministry of Health and through the minister has said they are going to ramp up the campaign in terms of the social media, in the radio in the TV, and all the ads that have to come out because we have to get that message out that the vaccination is the best way to go.”