Thu | Oct 21, 2021

Vax or vex

Employers float plan for mandatory COVID jabs

Published:Thursday | August 5, 2021 | 12:39 AMDavid Salmon/Gleaner Writer
Nicholas Skervin of Caribbean Cement Company gets his COVID-19 jab from nurse Oneka Murray at the Girl Guides Association of Jamaica headquarters in Kingston on Wednesday.
Nicholas Skervin of Caribbean Cement Company gets his COVID-19 jab from nurse Oneka Murray at the Girl Guides Association of Jamaica headquarters in Kingston on Wednesday.

The Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) has started drafting a proposal for mandatory vaccination of workers amid growing concern about the island’s low rate of inoculation against the coronavirus disease. Those overtures, yet to be dispatched to...

The Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) has started drafting a proposal for mandatory vaccination of workers amid growing concern about the island’s low rate of inoculation against the coronavirus disease.

Those overtures, yet to be dispatched to trade unions and the Government, could spark robust debate and resistance, with the country facing a third wave of infections.

President of the Jamaica Employers’ Federation, David Wan, said that implementation of a hard-line policy could not take effect until there were adequate doses of vaccines but acknowledged that the idea was on the agenda.

“I think there should be some sort of regulations that would, in effect, be a mandatory vaccine for the workplace, but the question is, what is the consequence of not taking this mandatory vaccine as a worker? I don’t think it should be discharge,” he told The Gleaner on Wednesday.

The JEF is examining the possibility of imposing mask mandates on unvaccinated employees as well as regular COVID-19 tests at their expense.

If mask wearing and testing rules are flouted, Wan suggests that warnings be given before any sanctions are applied.

“The employer has an obligation to keep the workplace safe just as much as an employee has the constitutional right not to be forced to do a vaccine,” the JEF president said.

If vaccination rates continue to remain low, Wan believes that the Government may have to consider imposing vaccine passes, where access to certain public and private facilities are restricted to those who have taken the jab or can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 result.

That proposal has currently been adopted in France, stoking outrage and protests against the Macron administration.

To bolster the vaccination rate, a number of businesses have launched the Private Sector Vaccine Initiative (PSVI). This initiative aims to vaccinate 150,000 Jamaicans by the end of the year and 300,000 by March 2022.

Peter Melhado, chairman of the Logistics and Operations Committee of the Private Sector Vaccine Initiative, said the group has been actively engaged with 180 companies.

Melhado does not believe that mandatory vaccination is necessary now.

“I don’t think we are there as yet. What we are working on now is to have people volunteer and give them all the good reasons why we should and see how that goes,” he told The Gleaner.

Initial results from the PSVI pilot have been positive, said Melhado, with the take-up of the 1,200 vaccine doses oversubscribed last Thursday.

The PSVI intends to launch out and set up vaccination sites at participating organisations.

“What the research has shown is that access and availability are big drivers for people taking the vaccine,” he said.

Companies interested in registering for the PSVI may email info@psvija.com or visit its website, PSVIJa.com.