From today, some persons working within the government service who have not taken a COVID-19 vaccine will be considered to have abandoned their job.
And last Wednesday, police officers who were unvaccinated were no longer considered employed by the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF).
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said on Wednesday while speaking on NBC Radio’s ‘Your Morning Cup’ program, that by today, the RSVGPF would submit to the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO), the names of officers who abandoned their jobs, and any benefits afforded to them would be looked at.
This as SR&O No. 28 of 2021-The Public Health (Public bodies Special Measures) Rules has taken full effect and under that law, certain categories of government workers, unless they have received an exemption are prohibited from entering the workplace unless they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Gonsalves reiterated that he does not want to see people losing their jobs but added that, “I am not making them lose their jobs they are making the choice to lose their jobs.” He noted that the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine shows there is no rationale behind refusing to be vaccinated.
He said that as of last Wednesday, the numbers show that police officers, prison officers, nurses at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) and in the Community Nursing Services, as well as persons employed in the airport sector are around 90 percent vaccinated.
He added that customs workers are around 88 percent vaccinated while teachers are in the low 80s but expected to rise.
It was noted also that the applications of persons who have asked for medical and religious exemptions are being processed and by today, the CPO would have indicated whether those persons have been exempted from being vaccinated.
Gonsalves further noted that persons seeking exemptions on religious grounds and are part of groups like The Ancient Churcical Order of the Nyahbinghi and the Thusians have doctrinal grounds regarding vaccination and the application has to be signed by the head of the order or church.
He pondered that these persons can possibly be accommodated in areas of the public service that do not attract high traffic and ordered to follow the COVID-19 protocols like wearing of masks.
However he noted that reassigning a teacher for example to certain areas in the public service may be problematic as they would be going into a work environment where they have no knowledge of the job they are expected to do.
“Let’s say you are a graduate teacher. I don’t know how many jobs the Ministry of Education will have to put you down in a backroom at the Ministry of Education to do research…or at the curriculum unit…”
Dr. Gonsalves concluded however, that he is urging persons to take the vaccine unless they have been exempted.
The rules stipulate that all health care employees; permanent secretaries and heads of departments; teachers appointed to public educational institutions, assisted private schools or public schools; ancillary staff employed within public educational institutions or public schools; employees of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College; members of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force; staff of Her Majesty’s Prisons; public officers within the Passport and Immigration Services Department; public officers within the Customs and Excise Department; public officers within the House of Assembly; public officers within the Environmental Health Division of the Public Health Department; and employees of the Port Authority, employees of the Argyle International Airport Company or persons employed to perform duties at an airport or seaport are required to be vaccinated.
[[ UPDATED at 10:03 pm on Friday, December 3, 2021 to clarify that only certain categories of government workers are required to be vaccinated. An earlier version of this story said that the vaccination mandate applied to all government workers]]