Doctors, teachers, officers still monitoring vaccine program for the way forward

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — With coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations expected to become available within the first half of this year, some frontline workers, including doctors, teachers and police officers, have said they are still on the fence on whether workers will opt to take the initial vaccine.

Eyewitness News spoke with the Consultant Physician Staff Association (CPSA), the Police Staff Association and the Bahamas Union of Teachers about whether their workers are prepared to take the vaccine when it becomes available.

The Ministry of Health has previously indicated that no one will be forced to take the vaccine.

Consultant Physicians Staff Association President Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler.

CPSA President Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler said there are generally “mixed feelings” about the matter, which are reasonable at this time given the preliminary phase of the process.

“We are still looking at how the potential side effects may be with our fellow healthcare team members in other countries,” Pinder-Butler said.

“And then we are not certain which vaccine will be available for us. So, at this moment, most of us are watching the science, watching and looking out for our fellow colleagues, and certainly in the meanwhile trying to stay as safe as you can to prevent the spread of COVID in our various homes.”

Police Staff Association Chairman Sonny Miller.

Police Staff Association Chairman Sonny Miller said the association has also not come to a consensus on the matter and remains on the fence.

“We have not completed sufficient research on it,” Miller said.

“Of course, we will trust medical personnel who say whether it’s safe or not, despite what’s going on. But, at this time, we are not in a position to say we agree or disagree with it.”

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames has insisted that the decision will ultimately be up to the individual law enforcement officer on whether they will take the vaccine.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to everyone to decide whether they wish to take the vaccine or not,” Dames said.

“You can’t force someone to take something. You can’t force them to do it.”

Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson.

Meanwhile, Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson said while the vaccine should be made available to everyone, it should be a personal choice for teachers.

Wilson said she is pleased and relieved that several vaccines are now available and in the early stages of rollout, adding that it provides some semblance of hope to the end of the pandemic.

“I’m cognizant of the fact that teachers are on the frontline and we are on the frontline alongside 48,000 students in the public school system,” she said.

“But the view is that the vaccine should be made available to all Bahamians, but not mandatory.

“It should be voluntary. Teachers, as well as other workers, must make the personal choice for themselves and their families as to whether or not they should take the vaccine.”

Wilson added that her union is also very concerned about the new variant of the COVID-19 which was identified in the UK and has spread to dozens of countries to date and its ability to more easily infect children.

“For us in The Bahamas, I would say we need education about the vaccine, its benefits and its effects and we need education and information [about] the process and the procedure for the vaccination whenever that process begins.”

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has recently appointed a National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee, which will advise the prime minister and the Ministry of Health on the development of the strategy, policies and activities related to the National COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.

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