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By Kadeem Joseph

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Health officials who had gathered at the Central Marketing Corporation (CMC) on Market Street on Saturday morning to offer residents the chance to get vaccinated were met with resistance from a group of anti-vax protesters.

Among the handful of picketers was Adrian Williams of the advocacy group – Wake Up Caribbean – who took issue with the potential discrimination people could face for opting not to get vaccinated.

“You have your rights to get vaccinated and your rights to be unvaccinated without prejudice,” he said. “We are saying, if you have a choice and we exercise our choice… our choice should not be conditional because the vaccinated are not having conditions met out to them.”

The anti-vax protestors claimed the vaccine is the ‘mark of the beast’ referred to in biblical scriptures, and chanted for the acceptance of “people’s rights”, while others sought to persuade people to rely on fruits and vegetables to provide them with the boost needed to combat Covid-19.

The prospect of employers requiring vaccinations for a return to work, or possible vaccine requirements for travel, also raised the ire of those gathered.

While health officials did apparently interact with a small group at the scene, little could be said to quell their anxieties about the shot.

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, who was also on site, said that the protesters were free to voice their opinion on vaccinations, maintaining that no one is being forced to take a jab.

“The vaccine is not mandatory. Right now, the government’s policy is that persons can choose whether or not to get the vaccine and in the same vein persons can choose to give their opinion,” she said. “Once they don’t disrupt what we are doing here physically, that’s the government’s policy.”

While law enforcement did intervene, the picket was largely without incident.

Presently, about 30,000 people have received a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in Antigua and Barbuda.