Cabinet is not in favour of mandatory COVID-19 vaccines.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley shared the view earlier today during an hour-long “Conversation with Barbados”.
Ms. Mottley told her audience: “I personally and …my Cabinet have all agreed that we should not mandate vaccines; we are philosophically opposed to the mandating of vaccines. That’s not who we are as a people.”
She said the private sector and the trade unions had already spoken and the Social Partnership would meet again on August 30 to have further discussions on the matter.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister disclosed that she would be visiting health care facilities from next Monday to hear from workers about their hesitancy, concerns and any questions they have regarding the vaccines. She stressed that this exercise is aimed at sensitising and educating the employees about the vaccine as she is firmly of the view that getting inoculated can save their lives and that of their families.
She pointed out that these discussions were necessary even before there could be dialogue about the legal opinion and the legislative framework.
“In this battle, we will have to respect those who have a fervent and deep philosophical perspective, or who for medical reasons, genuinely cannot take the vaccine. And for those of you who are ambivalent, I ‘gine’ be straight; I coming to help persuade you because I believe that vaccines will save your lives….
“I want to go myself, starting Monday afternoon, to the health care institutions in our country…. I am told that the level of vaccinations is just under 80%, in other words, eight out of every 10 public health nurses are vaccinated, but we do have some issues still in our hospitals that require us to move the numbers up some more.
“I want to come and hear you directly, and I pledge to do that almost every day next week across the different institutions because this is the country where we talk, and talk in small groups. It could be easy for me to call you all up at the gymnasium and talk once. That’s not what this is about. This is about me listening to you and me engaging with you. And to the extent I can answer you and help you on the path of decision-making,” she stated.
Ms. Mottley noted that just over 101,000 of the nearly 215 to 220,000 people who make up Barbados’ adult population had already been vaccinated. She stated that was almost one in every two adults.
“So, let us start from the premise that we have done well and that we are well ahead of the curve, but we are not yet where we want to be,” she stressed.
She said Government’s overriding objective was to keep this country safe and united. She added that the vaccines could work even with the Delta variant, as she pointed out that COVID-19 had affected just under two per cent of the population.
The Prime Minister noted that islands with strong protocols and a strong vaccination programme had seen a significant reduction in deaths. In highlighting Iceland, she indicated it had its third largest wave within the last month, but recorded zero deaths. She attributed this to the country’s vaccination rate, which she described as one of the highest in the world.
She commended Barbadians for participating in the four town hall meetings on COVID-19 vaccines and testing, saying that the level of public engagement was “overwhelming”.
“I want to say how proud I am as Prime Minister of this nation to have a country that is prepared to come into the public space and to have these discussions on matters that are critical to our well-being…. We believe that this is necessary for a healthy democracy,” she said.
However, in alluding to a matter emanating from the meetings that concerned her, the Prime Minister reminded citizens that it was possible for them to disagree without becoming disagreeable.
“And there were some moments that I thought were a little unfortunate, especially those that were seeking to attack some of our medical professionals, who are doing nothing other than sharing their knowledge, their understanding of the science.
“While we accept that there are different perspectives, … what we must never do as a nation is so deprecate the views of each other, that we stop listening to each other,” Ms. Mottley insisted.