Who calls the shot? Jamaica between a rock and a hard place on vaccine mandatesThursday, September 30, 2021
We don't know how many Jamaicans, if any, are among the nearly 600 employees United Airlines said yesterday it would be firing for refusing to comply with a requirement to be vaccinated for COVID-19. But the bald truth is that we can feel the noose tightening around Jamaica's neck where mandatory vaccination is concerned, as more and more of the world insist that it can no longer wait for enough people to make up their minds and take the jab.
The Jamaican Government has taken the position — which we firmly support — that it will not mandate vaccinations, at least for now, until adequate supplies and greater ease of access can be assured.
We are seeing, however, that at the rate major countries and companies are demanding mandatory inoculation, Jamaica may soon not be in a position decide on our own whether to vax or not to vax.
United Airlines is only the latest of the international giants to have told its 67,000 workforce to get vaccinated and upload their vaccine card to the company's system. Seeing the writing on the wall, more than 99 per cent of the remaining US staff has complied, the airline reported.
Britain, with which we have enjoyed such deep familial ties after our long colonial relationship, has shown its willingness to jettison the island because of the low rate of vaccination here, worsened by the high rate of infections and death from COVID-19.
Protest as we might, even Foreign Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has had to admit that the “stoplight travel status (involving the United Kingdom) is a function of our vaccination numbers, hospitalisations, variants, and related considerations in Jamaica”.
She says: “[I]t is quite clear that these circumstances need to be improved for ourselves, and for this reason… the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has requested data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness to assist the UK Government in the review of Jamaica's vaccination programme.”
In the event anyone is hoping that Britain will change its mind and be nice to us, Senator Johnson Smith couldn't have made it any clearer: “The travel status of the country is another reason why we all should be vaccinated in order to reduce the spread of [the novel coronavirus]… serious illness, hospitalisation, and the development of variants. We need to improve the level of protection for ourselves, our families and the wider population. We are all in this together!”
Following the cue of the US Government, many of the largest American companies are instituting mandatory vaccination no matter the cost. Critics there have sued, unsuccessfully so far, to stop Indiana University's mandate. Some Republican politicians have also tried to stop mandates, including governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Mike DeWine of Ohio.
Yet, those on the side of mandates seem to be winning the battle.
According to The New York Times, before Houston Methodist became one of the first hospital systems in the US to mandate COVID-19 vaccines, about 85 per cent of its employees had been vaccinated. After the mandate, the share rose to about 98 per cent. Only about 0.6 per cent of employees quit or were fired.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey of Americans who had been opposed to getting vaccinated and later changed their minds found that mandates on the unvaccinated did the trick.
The situation is snowballing.