Corporate Fear Drives Caribbean Vaccine COVID-19 Authorization-Global Issue

The private sector and some government agencies require staff to be vaccinated, especially in the tourism industry that promotes economic development in many regions. Image source: Zadie Neufville/IPS
  • By Zadie Neufville (Kingston)
  • International news agency

Prime Minister Andrew Hornes stated that the government “must lead the country to normal”.

He said after the meeting on October 12: “The way to do this is to make every Jamaican comply with the infection, prevention and control measures that have been established, and eventually it will relax as the level of vaccination increases.”

In the current atmosphere, outbreaks of the epidemic, business shutdowns, and vaccine hesitation will cause ripples in the economy. Therefore, although Jamaica does not have a national vaccine regulation, private sector companies and some government agencies already require employees to be vaccinated.

In addition to several vaccination campaigns for employees, Jamaican private sector organizations have joined the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and the Jamaica Association of Manufacturers and Exporters to firmly support a national campaign.

These groups said that due to the low vaccination rate in the past two years after the pandemic, Jamaica has fallen behind in achieving population immunity, putting the country’s recovery at risk. These groups argue that the social and economic impact will be devastating, and that “the chain reaction will continue for several years.” But even as support for an authorization grew, opposition leader Mark Golding opposed it. Only about 17% of the Jamaican population has been vaccinated.

Throughout the region, the government has already performed its tasks. In Guyana, nationals who want to enter any public building (including banks, restaurants, supermarkets and schools) must present a vaccination certificate. In the twin island nation of Antigua Barbuda, opposition lawmakers accused the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sir Gerald Watt, of acting beyond his authority because they did not produce a vaccination certificate after preventing them from participating in the Senate.

With each outbreak, worries about the tourism industry that drives the economies of many regions will increase. Many countries/regions now have vaccination policies for adult travelers entering the country. These include Anguilla, Grenada, Saint Barthes, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands.

Even while the government is considering authorization, they are also preparing for workers’ civil unrest and legal challenges. In a recent opinion, the Jamaican Bar Association stated that nothing prevents the government or employers from performing their tasks. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States outlined its position in a 16-page document titled: “The legal aspects of mandatory/mandatory requirements for COVID-19 vaccination in August 2021”.

According to the report, these countries can legally implement compulsory vaccination laws. “It has been proven…in view of the leeway given to public health necessity, compulsory vaccination is constitutionally appropriate, and it is believed that employers can justify the requirements in pandemic situations, at least in the workplace at high risk Environmental situations, such as health-care or basic services, or workers who face greater risks in the workplace, such as frontline workers who interact with the public,” the document said.

However, although public health legislation specifically targets restrictions during the pandemic, those who oppose enforcement believe that they violate human rights.

If efforts to increase the number of vaccinations fail, Helene Davis-Whyte, president of the Jamaican Federation of Processing Societies, looks forward to state authorization. She advocated a comprehensive public awareness plan and consultations before taking such steps, and warned that “draconian methods” might discourage some people.

“We don’t necessarily object, but what we want to say is that you have to do more work because we don’t think you have enough work,” she told reporters recently.

Therefore, with their own legal opinions, governments have been implementing what they say will protect their countries. By October 2021, at least seven governments in the region have developed COVID-19 tasks for government workers. In August, in Guyana, the police were asked to expel staff from the Ministry of Education headquarters who entered the building without a vaccination certificate. Earlier that month, large-scale protests took place in Saint Vincent and Barbados. In July, during a counter-authorization demonstration in St. Vincent, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves was shot in the head and injured by angry protesters.

Like Jamaica, Barbados has not formally supported the vaccine authorization, but Hornes admitted that he may have to make a decision as soon as possible. But even if Jamaica increasingly lacks state authorization, civil servants find that they must be vaccinated to work.

The Ministry of Tourism has scrambled to vaccinate 170,000 people in the industry. Workers who have been in contact with cruise ship tourists must be fully vaccinated.

As the country hopes to restore full-time schools, it is the turn of teachers and school staff. The medical staff have been assigned tasks. In the private sector, more than 80% of workers are vaccinated.

In the field of business process outsourcing (BPO), several companies became hotspots during the first wave, and vaccination was mandatory. In Jamaica, COVID-19 restrictions and a 14-day lockdown cost the industry US$42 million (5.88 billion yen) in revenue.

But in the tourism industry in the region, mandatory regulations have become the norm. Hotel operators and other service providers seek to prevent lawsuits and work stoppages by requiring employees to be fully vaccinated. In the Bahamas, workers and visitors must be fully vaccinated. Tourists who have not been vaccinated will face a 14-day quarantine. Jamaica’s goal is to achieve 100% of the vaccinated workforce.

More and more countries have formulated vaccination policies for entering adult travelers. These include Anguilla, Grenada, Saint Barthes, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands.

At the same time, the private sector’s desire to return to normal and increase economic activity may push many people to vaccinate faster than any government mandate.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) — All rights reservedOriginal source: International News Service


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