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PAHO rep cautions against mandatory COVID jabs… for now

by Barbados Today
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One of the Eastern Caribbean’s top COVID-19 fighters on Friday has come out against governments introducing mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for the moment.

Dr Yitades Gebre, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean made the statement to journalists as PAHO launched a communications campaign targeting vaccine hesitancy in the region.

Though Dr Gebre stressed that such mandatory policies with vaccinations were not currently necessary at this time, he insisted that more citizens should be vaccinated as soon as possible, if any real form of herd immunity to COVID-19 is to be reached in the region.

He explained: “From the WHO point of view and PAHO, we do not envision that countries will implement mandatory vaccinations against COVID-19 at this time, but there are certain situations where a strong recommendation to vaccinations may be issued, for instance for healthcare workers.

“Frontline workers, where there would be a risk for themselves and at the same time, there will be also a [risk] for them passing, if infected, to the people they are caring for.”

Dr Gebre was also quick to underscore the necessity for countries to have a robust and consistent vaccination drive for their citizens, as it has proven to be the scientifically best way so far of keeping down infection rates.

“In situations where voluntary vaccinations are inadequate, and the COVID transmission rate remains unacceptable, then that will result in lockdowns and shutdowns in order to avoid this kind of situation, sometimes there may a need to have mandates or requirements for vaccinations,” he added.

Apart from the ethical issues that would arise from forced inoculations, Dr Gebre also said that there is no current feasible way that any form of mandatory vaccinations can take place in most countries, as vaccine access is limited in much of the nations around the globe, in particular the smaller countries.

PAHO’s new Vaccines Communication Campaign is being seen as a comprehensive educational strategy of short ‘infomercials’ to be seen on all media platforms as well as scripts that can be used by organizations to bring clearer health information to their members.

The aim is for Caribbean nationals to gain all relevant information they need to be confident in taking any of the COVID-19 vaccines, as according to Dr Gebre, medical professionals have not only had to combat the virus on the frontlines but also its associated rumours which have to be dealt with using trusted sources.

“We need to ensure access to trusted information, and effectively manage misinformation and rumours,” said the PAHO representative. “We need to activate and strengthen our national fact-checking and rumour monitoring capacity in recognising rumours and misinformation can be as dangerous as COVID-19.” (SB)

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