Despite widespread criticisms over his previous comments, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis on Friday reiterated his position that employers should encourage their employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Last Thursday, while speaking in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Minnis said having staff vaccinated would ensure businesses continue operations should there be a COVID exposure.
He suggested that employees who are not vaccinated take weekly RT-PCR tests, which cost over $100 each in The Bahamas.
While many claimed his suggestion was discriminatory, the prime minister repeated his plea during the opening of a new passport office on Eleuthera on Friday.
When asked to respond to criticisms afterwards, he said, “What I’m saying is you should encourage individuals to vaccinate.
“It is established that if the entire environment in the workplace, if those individuals are vaccinated, then if one individual within that grouping is not, then you need not close your business because the remainder are protected.
“And if those who had refused or for whatever reason do not want to be vaccinated then there should be some form of test that they should do to ensure that the environment is safe.”
To date, 53,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have arrived in the country.
Another 33,000 doses from the COVAX Facility are expected to arrive next month.
In total, roughly 120,000 doses are expected – enough to fully vaccinate roughly 60,000 people or less than one-fifth of the country’s population.
Government officials have maintained that the vaccines are not mandatory. However, at least one business, a New Providence restaurant, has already announced that its employees are required to take the vaccine and may be terminated if they choose not to.
While it recently said vaccines are available to individuals over 18, limited supply led the government to restrict appointments to only Bahamians and permanent residents.
The government has said it is seeking to purchase more doses, but there has been no indication of when that will happen.
Minnis said on Friday the government has no indication on whether The Bahamas will receive any of the 60 million doses of AstraZeneca the United States recently announced it will donate.
However, he assured that he is working to secure more.
“We have been continuously and aggressively searching for vaccines and I am certain that we will find the necessary amount to vaccinate our entire population,” he said.