The Ministry of Health is not aware of any planned vaccination programme for visitors to the island.
This was made clear today by the island’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George, who said neither he nor the ministry had been informed of any decision to begin vaccinating visitors from April.
His comments followed claims by the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) spokesperson on health, Paul Gibson that Government was pressing ahead with the initiative without telling the Barbadian public.
Gibson said he was made aware of the move via two online magazines.
However, Dr George said from a public health perspective the move did not make sense.
“We have said, that Barbadians and permanent residents, people who live in Barbados, are the priority for our vaccine programme.
“With respect to visitors coming on island to receive the vaccine I am not aware of that. It doesn’t make good public health sense that you would vaccinate transient people so I don’t know where that information came from, but at no point in time did the Ministry of Health have an input into that. That is the best way I can say it,” Dr George said during a telephone interview this afternoon.
Efforts to reach Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic for comment proved unsuccessful.
Yesterday in a press statement, Gibson said he became aware of Government’s plan via two articles – one in Travel Agent Central dated March 2, and another in Travel Off Path dated March 1. Both articles referred to releases received from the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), revealing a plan for vaccines to be given to visitors during April and May.
Repeated efforts to reach the BTMI for comment also proved unsuccessful up to press time.
The article posted on the website Travel Agent Central reported that the BTMI had confirmed the development.
It stated: “The first wave of vaccinations was distributed to frontline workers, including those in the tourism sector, as well as the vulnerable population, including the elderly and persons with comorbidities. Now, all citizens over 18 are coming forward to get their first dose of the vaccine.
“The interesting part is this: To ensure widespread protection, the Government of Barbados has signalled its intent to obtain more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for persons on island, whether they are citizens or not, by the end of April or early May 2021. Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) confirmed with Travel Agent that this means that travellers to the island who have not been vaccinated would be able to receive one or more doses,” the article added.
Gibson questioned why the public had not been informed and advised health authorities to concentrate on vaccinating its aging population first.
He also queried the cost of vaccinating visitors and who would foot the bill.
“We have press briefings sometimes three times a week and not once were we given details about any plan to vaccinate visitors. We had to read about this in overseas travel magazines. Why is it that this Government continues to keep pertinent information away from taxpayers of this country? When the Prime Minister made mention of Barbadian donations to a vaccine fund why did she not share news of this plan?” Gibson asked at the time.