Jamaica’s Health Minister Weighs in on Global Vaccine Passport

Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, has weighed in on the issue of a COVID-19 vaccine passport, which is being debated by world leaders.

Responding to a question at the Norman Manley International Airport on Monday, April 26 after the arrival of another 55,000 doses of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX Facility, the Minister said “there’s a conversation that is taking place globally around a vaccine passport”.

“The truth is that the international community and the framework for movement of people has always had a public health component to it, which includes looking at infectious diseases, and where vaccines are an important response to that, persons have to show evidence that they have taken the vaccines,” Dr. Tufton said.

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“So technically speaking, a system is in place, and I believe in this instance this may come in for COVID-19 also. I think it’s still early because the conversation is taking place, but if you are coming from a country with yellow fever to Jamaica, for example, you have to have a yellow fever card and, essentially, that is a passport to entry, so it’s not an unusual concept. In fact, it’s a very important concept,” he added.

In the United States, the Biden administration is still undecided on the issue of vaccine passports for Americans, but several colleges in the United States have already announced that students and staff will have to get the vaccine before coming back on campus.

Notre Dame, Cornell and Rutgers Universities are just some of the high-profile schools to require mandatory vaccinations. In South Florida, Nova Southeastern, which is a top school choice for many Caribbean-Americans, has also done the same. The announcement has led members of the diaspora living in South Florida to debate whether or not students and staff should be required to take the vaccine.

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For, Dr. Dominique Jackson, it’s a good idea.

“As an educator and a mom of two students, I do feel that it should be a requirement for teachers and students to be vaccinated so they can help stop the spread. Especially because only 16 and up can receive the vaccine, it will help stop the spread for the younger ones who can’t get the vaccine,” she said.

On the other hand, Andrea Williams, a South Florida resident and parent, said that no school should mandate that staff and students take the vaccine.

“When it comes to the teachers, it’s all about preference even though the vaccine sounds like a good idea and the safest thing for everybody. But it’s all about preference because not everybody trusts the vaccine. And as far as the kids, I don’t really know because I would give my child the vaccine, just because I don’t have enough research to go on,” she said.

Mandatory vaccinations are not a new concept in schools and places of work, state leaders remain divided on making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory. In April, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a ban on vaccine passports.

In the coming days, the White House is expected to release guidance for businesses and local governments who wish to make vaccinations mandatory.

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