The Antigua and Barbuda government says it will contemplate a mandatory policy of vaccination only if herd immunity cannot be achieved through other means within a fixed timeframe.
A statement issued following the weekly Cabinet meeting noted that discussions had taken place about the pace at which the vaccination of the population is proceeding, and agreed that to achieve herd immunity, more residents and citizens must offer themselves to be vaccinated.
Last weekend, Prime Minister Gaston Browne told radio listeners of the possibility of implementing a mandatory vaccination program in Antigua and Barbuda as he criticized persons who were encouraging others not to participate in the national vaccination program aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“This is not a threat,” Browne said, adding that the pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the socio-economic development of the island since the first case was diagnosed last March.
In the statement, the government said it would go further and agreed upon several incentives, including offering EC$50 food vouchers to every adult who steps forward to be vaccinated, and who brings others to the centers to receive their jabs.
“Although more than 30,000 adult residents and citizens have stepped forward and have been vaccinated thus far, an additional 40,000 adults need to be vaccinated before herd immunity can be said to be achieved.”
The statement also noted that discussions were held with the officials of the Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association (ABHTA) where the assurance was sought by Cabinet whether, like other Hotels Associations in the Caribbean, the ABHTA would have a voluntary or mandatory policy regarding vaccination and employment at the hotels.
“The officials did reveal that many North Americans making bookings for the upcoming season, inquired whether the hotels’ employees were vaccinated. The Cabinet concluded that there is a strong desire by the travelling public to ensure that the persons with whom they must interact at the hotels are safely vaccinated and not likely to make them ill or to infect them.”
The Cabinet said that it will extend similar Invitations to the Employers Federation, the Chamber of Commerce, the Trade Union Congress, and other employee/employer groups, “in order to seek consensus on the vaccination policy.
“A mandatory policy of vaccination is contemplated by the administration only if herd immunity cannot be achieved through other means within a fixed timeframe,” the statement said, noting that the government had also agreed to relax the allowing for recreational sports to take place.
In addition, the government said a public health protection policy is being “articulated, vaccination being the most important element.
“The protocols established thus far, which have kept the population largely healthy, is another element of this policy,” it said.