There is a possibility that the government of Antigua and Barbuda will make their COVID-19 vaccination programme mandatory. This is if the slow uptake of the vaccines does not improve.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne gave the warning on his weekend radio programme.
“This type of hesitancy and reluctance to get vaccinated is just totally unacceptable. I mean, we have been trying to avoid introducing any mandatory requirements for vaccinations but I want to signal here – if we have to do it we will do so,” he told listeners.
“It is going to be an inescapable fact that our people have no choice but to get vaccinated. They either do so voluntarily to protect lives and livelihoods or be forced to do so.”
Browne lamented the economic impact the coronavirus has had on the country so far which he says can only be remedied if citizens get vaccinated.
“We are struggling on a monthly basis to meet salaries and wages and you are telling me that Antigua and Barbuda, as one of the hardest-hit countries, one of the most vulnerable, you are telling me we have the luxury of not getting vaccinated?
I want to say definitively to the people of Antigua and Barbuda that we do not have the luxury of not getting vaccinated. And if we do not get the herd immunity perhaps in the next 60 to 90 days, there is going to be weeping and gnashing of teeth in this country,” he warned.
The Prime Minister also had strong words for those who were encouraging people not to get vaccinated.
“They feel if they undermine the process and the people will suffer for say, another six more months to a year, that will perhaps give them a better chance of forming the Government.
“But I ask the question, ‘If you were to form the Government …where are you going to get the money to run the country? How are you going to resolve the deep wounds that would have been inflicted by COVID?’. It is in no one’s interest to undermine the vaccination process.”
Antigua and Barbuda has set a target of 70 per cent of its population to be vaccinated in order to get herd immunity and Browne said during the vaccination exercise last week, just over 100 people took advantage of the programme.
Antigua and Barbuda has recorded 1, 232 cases of the virus with 32 deaths since last March. There have been 1,014 recoveries.