MONTEGO BAY, St James — Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte has sided with employers who have made vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for staff in an effort to slow the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus. However, she made it clear that the Government's stance is that mandatory vaccination across the board is not on the table at this time.
The attorney general told reporters she believes employers are on solid legal footing when they ask employees to either take the jab or present negative COVID-19 test results, at the employees' expense, at the start of each week. She was speaking on the sidelines of a donation ceremony at her St James West Central constituency office on yesterday.
“Employers are under a duty to ensure a safe system of work. So think about it, if persons are coming in and putting others at risk, the employers do have a duty to take action. If these [same] employees have to interact with the public and the public is going to be put at risk, there is also a responsibility to take action,” Malahoo Forte said, adding that this should also be a concern echoed by every worker.
“The presence of an infectious disease among workers is going to be a problem because if people fall ill and are putting others at risk, all of us must be concerned about that,” she continued.
With the vaccine said to provide individuals with a fighting chance against the virus that has claimed the lives of more than four million people across the world, Malahoo Forte said she understands why an employer would push for staff to be vaccinated.
“I can't see anything unreasonable of an employer saying that if you choose not to take the vaccine then you also must show that you are COVID-19 negative. A COVID-19 positive [individual] is going to put others that they come into contact with at risk,” Malahoo Forte said.
“Taking the vaccine is medically and scientifically safe, from all indications. [It] prevents extreme illness and hospitalisation [and] is one of the options [we have] to contain the spread of the virus,” the attorney general added.
She noted that if the Government makes vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory, that announcement will come from Prime Minister Andrew Holness. She stressed that the Government has been undertaking extensive vaccination drives across the country as Jamaica grapples with COVID-19 cases.
“Our aim is to ensure that all persons are vaccinated because it is proven to prevent serious illness in the event of contamination. Right now, [our main] goal is ensuring that the doses of vaccines that we have are administered in a timely manner before they expire,” Malahoo Forte noted.