By Latrishka Thomas
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has insisted that the vaccination of residents will not be mandatory, but employers have become increasingly concerned over the number of employees who may refuse to be vaccinated.
So, on Tuesday, the Minister of Labour Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin met with other government representatives, the Employer’s Federation, the hotel association and union representatives to discuss the way forward on the matter which is “apparently is now about to blow its top”.
Benjamin shared that “many employers are concerned that persons in their employment are refusing to be vaccinated. The employers are concerned that these persons must remember that they got to be concerned about themselves, their coworkers and persons who use their businesses to conduct their affairs.”
He said that the lingering question is: “What policy ought we to adopt to cope with this situation?”
“A special team was established to examine those situations and we meet next week Tuesday to develop a policy going forward,” Benjamin remarked.
The government’s public vaccination programme began about a week ago, as the main option to arrest the spread of infections caused by the Covid-19 virus.
In February, 5,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived on island as a gift from the neighbouring island Dominica and then 40,000 a few weeks later from India. The government, in turn, donated 5,000 doses from this batch to Grenada.
Since then, over 18,000 of the 80,000 residents, which the government had hoped to treat within a month, have already received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Reports are that there is an overwhelming interest in vaccination but the authorities have now prioritised the vaccination of key populations to include frontline workers, persons aged 65 and above, hotel workers, and teachers “who are key groups supporting economic and educational activity in Antigua and Barbuda”.
In the meantime, the government is awaiting approval from the local Pharmacy Council for the use of vaccines from China and Russia.