Gov’t implements new vaccine mandate for private sector

Information Minister Melford Nicholas (file photo)
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By Carlena Knight

As the race to achieve herd immunity progresses, government is intensifying their efforts to reach that goal as they revealed yesterday it is their intent to now implement a private sector vaccine mandate.

According to the Cabinet notes, those private sector employers who have five or more persons on staff “will be required to have all staff vaccinated in order for them to continue working”.

According to Information Minister Melford Nicholas, it is hoped that by November 15 private sector employees would have already had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.

He added that this new measure is another move by the government to attain herd immunity.

“This gives businesses the opportunity under the cover of the regulations to be able to implement these measures. Clearly, we are still anticipating getting to that coveted number of 80,000 by the end of November. We have sufficient vaccines to allow us to do that and so this mandate is an attempt for more persons to come forward and be vaccinated,” Nicholas said.

The amendment will be made to the Public Health Regulations.

For weeks, Prime Minister Gaston Browne and his Cabinet had hinted that similar to the public sector vaccine mandate, a private sector stipulation would be imposed in short order.

The government has talked about the impact the mandate has already had on vaccinations in the past and with the October 27 dashboard signalling that the country has fully vaccinated 49,560 individuals while 6,382 have only received their first dose, expectations are therefore high for this new mandate to have a similar impact where the figures are concerned.

Similar to the public sector vaccine mandate, concerns are likely to arise about the legality of the private sector mandate, but Nicholas assured previously that the necessary measures are already in place for the mandate to go into effect without any challenges.

In the past, groups like the Antigua and Barbuda Employers Federation (ABEF), for example, have voiced support for private sector vaccine mandates, while others had maintained that individual rights must be factored into the equation.

There are, however, a few business places that would have already made such stipulations. The hotel industry, for instance, in which majority of properties are privately owned would have mandated such a policy for their staff weeks ago.

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