HomeThe Big Stories‘Covid recoverees qualify for medical exemption in public sector vaccine mandate’ –...

‘Covid recoverees qualify for medical exemption in public sector vaccine mandate’ – Information Minister

By Orville Williams

orville.williams@antiguaobserver.com

Employees within the public sector who would have contracted Covid-19 and are in the early stages of recovery will be considered ‘medically exempt’ from the government’s mandatory vaccination policy.

That confirmation came late this week from Information Minister Melford Nicholas, in response to some public complaints that allege Covid recoverees were being sent home from their public sector jobs, despite possessing a ‘letter’ from the office of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), advising of their status.

According to health officials, persons who have recovered from the virus must wait for a period of several weeks before they are medically advised to take a Covid vaccine. This means the vaccine mandate could not apply to these persons and they would have to be treated accordingly.

Nicholas told media that those alleged incidents are a result of some inconsistency, adding that it will be addressed in short order and the correct procedure applied going forward.

“We did discuss that with the CMO [on Wednesday] and there was clearly a gap in the protocol in that respect. So, the fact that [the Covid recoverees] are unable to – on advice from the Ministry of Health – take a vaccine because they’re just recovering from Covid without that four-week gap, that will be considered as a medical reason from them not to be able to take the vaccine.

“That protocol will now be established, in discussion with the Cabinet Secretary, the Chief Medical Officer and the Permanent Secretaries.”

Nicholas also made it clear that, for the duration of their ineligibility to take the vaccine, the employees must submit to twice weekly Covid testing, to ensure the safety of those they come in contact with.

Those affected Covid recoverees will, no doubt, be delighted to receive that clarity, especially as the ‘second phase’ of the vaccine mandate comes into effect.

Starting yesterday, the salaries of those public sector employees who remain unvaccinated will be withheld – unless the employees can provide a valid medical exemption – while they remain away from work.

In this case, those unvaccinated but with a medical exemption, will be allowed to continue working, avoiding the ‘penalty’ of a withheld salary.

Some employees remain away from work since the vaccination mandate first came into effect, on the grounds that the policy is unfair and they refuse to comply. They continued to receive a salary via paid leave, but that door, according to the government, slammed shut yesterday.

Many of the trade unions representing the government workers are attempting to intervene in the matter on the grounds that the vaccine mandate is too harsh, even taking legal action in the interest of their members.

It is unclear whether the policy that preceded October 1 will be stayed while that legal action runs its course, but it will certainly be a matter that continues to captivate the public gaze over the coming days and weeks.

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