Days after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced more perks for fully vaccinated people in The Bahamas, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Senator Dr. Michael Darville said people who choose not to be vaccinated should not face “discrimination” for their choices.
Darville emphasized that he supports widespread vaccination against COVID-19, but said public education should be used to encourage higher uptake, as opposed to special privileges for the fully vaccinated.
“The COVID vaccine must be voluntary,” he said during debate of the 2021/2022 budget.
“And I must make this clear. I have noticed that there is this atmosphere that people who are not vaccinated could possibly be discriminated [against]. That should not happen.
“COVID vaccines must be voluntary and individuals who have not been vaccinated should not be discriminated [against]. Even though, as a medical professional, I am preaching that you take the vaccine, if you do not, you should not be discriminated upon.”
On Monday, as he wrapped up debate of the budget in the House of Assembly, Minnis announced that fully vaccinated people may take part in private gatherings, both in their homes and elsewhere, so long as everyone in attendance is fully vaccinated.
Wedding receptions are also permitted in New Providence and Grand Bahama, provided that all attendees are fully vaccinated.
Minnis had previously made provisions for fully vaccinated individuals to dine indoors and travel domestically without taking a PCR test. He also removed the PCR test requirement for fully vaccinated travelers entering the country.
Earlier this month, he announced plans for a “vaccination day”, where fully vaccinated individuals will be able to enjoy activities that are currently prohibited, including a happy hour at restaurants and bars. He also suggested that the curfew could be adjusted for vaccinated individuals.
However, Minnis said on Monday that a date has not been determined for vaccination day.
With roughly 19 percent of adults in The Bahamas having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in The Bahamas, according to Minister of Health Renward Wells, and just over seven percent fully vaccinated, Darville said the country is a long way from herd immunity.
He raised concern over the devastation some variant strains of COVID could cause in the country given the low uptake.
“With less than 26,000 adults of our population fully vaccinated, we are short of the numbers required to reach herd immunity,” Darville said.
“As a major tourist jurisdiction, the low numbers of vaccinated residents exposes us to the possibility of high level of community spread if any of the new variant strains of COVID-19 hit our shores. So, it’s important to keep our guards up.
“The leadership of our party has been advocating for massive public health education and the introduction of other vaccine options in the country.
“And I noticed today the minister spoke of reaching out to the private sector, finally, to see if they can assist us with this issue.”
Darville said the PLP is calling for the implementation of free testing of all Bahamians and improved contact tracing and quarantine protocols.