BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Aug. 12, 2021– With the Delta variant now showing up in various Caribbean nations, including Belize, governments have been fumbling to find ways to increase the number of vaccinated persons in their population in hopes of achieving herd immunity before this new strain takes hold on the region. The efforts have been met with resistance from the populations across various CARICOM sister states, who have been asserting that mandatory vaccination is an infringement on their fundamental rights.
Last week, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent was hospitalized after being struck with a rock during an anti-vaccine protest on the island. He suffered a concussion and has thus not yet been able to return to parliament to amend the Covid-19 regulations.
That protest on St. Vincent, and the resulting act of violence against the island’s head of state, has so far been the most extreme case of resistance to vaccination laws seen across the 15 member states to date and was followed by a demonstration in Antigua and Barbuda which saw police firing tear gas canisters. That country is also engaged in an exercise to immunize all frontline workers. The organizers of the protest were not given a response to their request for a permit to stage that protest until late Friday evening. This was seen by the organizers of the protest as a deliberate attempt to silence the group by the police in that country.
Similar protests were recently seen in Barbados, but without the level of violence displayed in Antigua and St. Vincent.
In Belize, the Attorney General, Hon. Magali Young, has been tasked with finding the options available to GOB in its efforts to get citizens of the country to get vaccinated and has also been asked to assess the potential legality of mandatory vaccinations/testing in Belize.
Just recently, in a parliamentary session in Guyana, the opposition leader was denied leave to raise the issue of mandatory vaccination of persons seeking to enter specific buildings. He said that the imposition of undue restrictions has severely hampered the ability of people to access services. Just recently, unvaccinated healthcare professionals were denied access to the country’s national referral hospital and other healthcare facilities because they did not have a vaccination card.
Reports are that in those countries there is a provision for mandatory bi-weekly testing, similar to what is in place in Belize.
Other Caribbean countries with much larger populations, like Trinidad and Jamaica, are engaged in efforts to acquire vaccines for their people.