By Farrah Johnson
Tribune Staff Reporter
CHIEF Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan’s assertion that mandatory vaccines for healthcare workers is under consideration was yesterday criticised even though vaccine hesitancy particularly among medical workers continues to be a challenge.
Many in the sector remain hesitant to receive the shot at a time when 93 people are in hospital battling COVID-19 and cases are surging across the country.
The resurgence has led to a strain on public health facilities and the reimposition of harsher restrictions in New Providence, Grand Bahama along with North and Central Eleuthera, including Harbour Island.
As a result, recommendations have been put forward to consider making vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers, Dr McMillan said Friday.
“I do not have the exact percentage, but we recognise the need for that grouping to be on board with vaccinations and in our discussions, I would say deliberations in the health EOC (Emergency Operations Centre), a recommendation would have been put forward for consideration of mandatory vaccinations of healthcare workers because of the significance of that group,” Dr McMillan said during a Ministry of Health press conference.
“Now, there are other things that must be considered because that grouping is the grouping that influences whether or not others, we recommend that you have a healthcare with your provider, so we have to work closely with the health provider grouping to understand their concerns…so that’s something we’re working on now and I’m sure we’ll be in a position to update”.
Yesterday, Bahamas Nurses Union president Amancha Williams criticised the suggestion insisting the decision to take the jab should be a personal choice.
Asked how she felt about the possibility of vaccinations being made mandatory for healthcare workers, Ms Williams said health officials could not make a decision like that without “consulting the union”.
“I disagree with Dr McMillan 100-percent because the choice is theirs,” she told The Tribune.
“My response to (the suggestion) is that they should provide persons in the various institutions with information as well as campaign in the various institutions to educate nurses. They should also respect the opinions and decisions of each nurse. You cannot make that mandatory”.
HOSPITALISATIONS REACH 100
SIXTY-two new COVID-19 cases were recorded Saturday, according to the Ministry of Health.
The number of hospitalisations also increased to 100.
On Friday, the number of COVID-19 hospital cases was 93.
Data released Sunday said 49 of those cases were in New Providence, three cases were in both Grand Bahama and Abaco and one in Bimini and Cat Cay.
There were also six new cases in Eleuthera.
Officials said three deaths were also under investigation.
The number of recorded COVID-19 cases now stands at 14,119, with 1,455 active cases.
Ms Williams said while she does not have a problem with healthcare workers getting vaccinated, she has an issue with the “techniques, method and strategies” the ministry is trying to use to encourage it.
She noted many people have apprehensions about the vaccines. She said she believed those “fears and psychological myths” needed to be relieved and addressed through educational campaigns.
“How do I make you not afraid to swim? I take baby steps with you right?...It’s the same thing,” she stated.
“At the end of the day (if vaccines become mandatory for healthcare workers) then the whole law has to change. If you make it mandatory for the healthcare workers, what do you think will happen in the hotels? What do you think is going to happen in different places and shops? People will lose their jobs. And when you look at the population in terms of how many people are vaccinated, the percentage is not very high, and the nurses will only be 0.55 of that population of 100 percent”.
Ms Williams said if medical professionals did not believe in the health ministry’s system, it showed they were not giving them enough information.
“As an individual sitting on the block, if I hear you say the nurses, doctors and the healthcare workers are not vaccinated, to me, I’m going to ask the question ‘Why don’t they believe in what you’re doing? So why would I want to tell the public that the nurses are not vaccinated and I’m campaigning to vaccinate my country?” she questioned.
“…Do you see any education going on? So that tells you they’re losing the fight. Nurses will do what they have to do, but they can’t give us an experimental job. You can’t tell me to put something experimental in my body…It’s a choice”.
Ms Williams insisted the Ministry could not make the vaccine mandatory because they were not imposing coronavirus vaccinations on other medical professionals in any other places in the world.
“It is a right,” she stated. “Do they make it mandatory that everybody has to take blood when religious people do not believe in taking blood? Do they make that mandatory to save their lives? What is the difference?
“In the United States, hospitals with 5,000 workers don’t have all of their workers vaccinated. You think they’re firing them? No, they’re asking them to take precautions (like) wear your mask and wash your hands with soap and they’re telling them if they have any issues don’t come to work. The nurses aren’t going out there infecting the patients you know. Ninety-nine percent of the nurses are infected by the patients. The CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) states that and the WHO (World Health Organisation) states that,” Ms Williams said.