For the first time since the start of Antigua and Barbuda’s vaccination programme this year, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has warned residents of mandatory vaccination.
He said this could be implemented if residents do not respond to the call to vaccinate voluntarily.
“I mean we have been trying to avoid introducing any mandatory requirements to force vaccinations, but I want to signal here that if we have to do it we will do so,” an “agitated” Prime Minister told his weekly radio programme.
“So, it is going to be an inescapable fact that people have no choice but to get vaccinated.
“They either do so voluntarily to protect lives and livelihoods or be forced to do so,” he warned.
“And at the end of the day you know I am going to make, myself and my Cabinet colleagues, any decision that is in the well-being of the country,” he added.
“That is not a threat, that is just encouraging people to voluntarily get vaccinated,” the prime minister said.
To date, just over 30 thousand residents have been vaccinated with the majority being inoculated during the first phase in March.
The country’s leader expressed disappointment that in the last week vaccination slowed to a trickle, with some days seeing as low as 20 persons receiving the AstraZeneca jab.
Browne said while he understands that some residents who have medical problems and members of the Rastafarian faith are not able to get vaccinated, “The rest of us we have an obligation to go out there and get vaccinated to protect ourselves, family members, and the entire society.”
“Sorry if I should a little agitated here but I am seeing a situation here in which some people perhaps innocently, perhaps deliberately are taking actions that could destroy lives and livelihoods.”
The prime minister criticized his political opponents for “undermining” the vaccinations process “and they are showing the people of this country that they are not ready for leadership.”
Browne who is also finance minister told radio listeners that Antigua and Barbuda cannot afford the consequences that come with no achieving herd immunity.
A target of 70 percent of Antigua’s 100,000 population has been set.
“I want to say definitively to the people of Antigua and Barbuda that we do not have the luxury of not being vaccinated.”
“And if we do not get the herd immunity perhaps within the next 60-90 days there is going to be weeping and gnashing of teeth in this country. That is the reality of it, so people need to take responsibility go out there and get vaccinated. The economic and social scars are getting deeper and deeper every day and this type of reluctance and hesitance to get vaccinated is just totally unacceptable.”