Doctor says religion should not be grounds for vaccine exemption

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By Kadeem Joseph

[email protected]

A noted medical practitioner believes that no one should be exempt from taking a Covid-19 vaccine, save for people who may have a medical reason.

In seeking to justify his stance, pathologist Dr Lester Simon, who was speaking during Sunday’s Big Issues programme, said individuals who are arguing that they will not be taking the Covid jab for religious or other reasons should not go unvaccinated because such individuals “can spread the virus like anyone else.”

The health care provider was asked that in the event the vaccine be made mandatory, who should be exempt from having to take it?

The doctor, who spoke specifically to rastafarians because of recent discussions surrounding the possible exemption of the religious group, compared the choice to take a vaccine to that of smoking marijuana.

“Rastas make choices every day just like all of us, I mean you smoke herb. That’s a choice you make. Because of the chemistry of combustion, the chemistry of burning says that when you burn anything you are giving off certain chemicals which are bad for your body, but you think it minor compared to the benefit you’re going to get… and you may in fact be right,” he explained. “So, why can’t you make that choice in regards to vaccines.”

People of the Rastafarian faith have long been against vaccines of any kind.

But despite this stance, Dr Simon still believes that people should not be forced to get vaccinated, but there should be greater emphasis on educating people on the importance of being vaccinated.

He added, however, that vaccinations are already mandatory in some regard.

“When you are going to certain places, if they say ‘you can’t enter my country unless you’re vaccinated,’ then you either stay home or you get vaccinated and go,” he said.

The issue of mandating Covid-19 vaccines has been a major topic of discussion in the last week, as the government continues to lament the impact vaccine hesitancy has had on plans to inoculate 70 to 80 percent of the population to achieve herd immunity by summer.

The sluggish response of the public has forced government officials to mull the potential of mandating the shot.

Last weekend, Prime Minister Gaston Browne warned of the possibility of implementing a mandatory vaccination programme in Antigua and Barbuda as he criticised people who were encouraging others not to get vaccinated.

He said the government has been trying to avoid introducing any mandatory requirements for vaccinations, but signaled, that the administration would do so if necessary.

The government also launched a $50 voucher programme in collaboration with Epicurean Fine Foods and Pharmacy for people opting to take the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), has advised against the mandating of vaccines to arrive at herd immunity and the offering of incentives to encourage people to get inoculated.

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