FLORENCE HALL, Trelawny — While underscoring that he will not be forcing anyone to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday said that mandatory vaccination will become unavoidable when a larger segment of the population becomes inoculated and demand that they should not be restricted by safety measures because some people refuse to take the jab.
“...As the number of persons vaccinated reaches a critical threshold it is going to become inevitable, because that population that are vaccinated will start to demand — as you are seeing the demands coming — that, 'Hey, we should not be held back in lockdowns and reduced gatherings; we should be allowed to go to restaurants and go to parties, move about, and go to churches because we are vaccinated. It is the unvaccinated who should remain under some sort of restrictions',” Holness said.
“In free and democratic countries, this is what happens,” the prime minister said following a vaccination blitz at Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium which was interrupted by heavy rain.
“In the United States, which is seen as the ultimate in freedom and democracy; in the United Kingdom, which is seen as the ultimate in freedom of democracy in the European countries; their citizens are required to show some proof of vaccination before they are allowed to enter various public places or go to restaurants or participate in certain events,” the prime minister stated.
“So I believe that Jamaica would be under an illusion to believe that it would never happen. But, remember now, in those countries, before they reached the stage of saying you need to show proof of vaccination, they did what we are doing. They had their public education campaign, but more than that, they attained a certain level of vaccination, and after they reached that critical threshold enough of their citizens were comfortable with that and demanded that this be done,” he said.
“We must first increase our level of vaccination, and we can only do that at this stage by increasing the level of knowledge and awareness in our citizens. We are not doing that by fear. This is not fearmongering, we are all independent, free people with our own minds to think. And I believe if we provide our citizens with the right information, the appropriate facts, they will make the right decisions,” said Holness who has been visiting vaccination sites across the island in an effort to influence more Jamaicans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The prime minister reiterated that, “At this stage Government is not considering implementing mandatory vaccination; however, probably it will emerge in the near future.”
He, however, conceded that the move is being contemplated.
“The Government is contemplating how this could be done. We have asked for advice from the Attorney General's Office and that advice is being developed. What we are currently doing, which I have already stated, is that before we can move to the step of making vaccinations mandatory, we must first ensure the people of the country understand the whole process of vaccination,” Holness said.
“We must explain to them why it is necessary and, more than that, we must make vaccinations available and it must be convenient to get vaccinated. That is what we are working on now. I am on the road with our ministers. We have asked for the support of the Opposition, we asked for the support of the Church, we have asked for the support of the private sector, and we are mobilising the country. It's very important, so we are informing the public, educating the public, and we are reassuring the public so that the public has enough information to make decisions without any form of enforcement,” he said.
Just this week the Jamaican Bar Association said it does not believe that requirements for mandatory vaccination, whether by employees or the State, contravene the constitutional rights of Jamaicans.