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Minister of Health, Jimmy Prince, left, and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Cuthbert Knights at the press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022.
Minister of Health, Jimmy Prince, left, and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Cuthbert Knights at the press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022.
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Minister of Health Jimmy Prince says that there is no mandate for COVID-19 booster shots for health care workers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, contrary to an Aug. 5 memo issued by his ministry.

“I apologise for the anxiety caused by our recent memo among health care workers, but, as I said before, that was not the intention of Cabinet,” Prince told a press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday.

“It is still not the intention of the Cabinet and I hope that people will take this onboard, that we are still under a public health emergency and that we need to protect ourselves,” he said, adding that booster shots are encouraged but not required.

He was speaking 10 days after Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves announced on July 28 that the Cabinet had decided a day earlier on a regime under which unvaccinated workers who were fired over the vaccine mandate would be rehired.

“For the health care workers, they will remain — and any new person entering, would have to be fully vaccinated and boosted,” the prime minister said at the launch of Volcano Eruption Emergency Project.

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On Tuesday, the health minister echoed a statement by Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, at the same briefing, that there had been a “mis-transcription” from the cabinet.

“I, first of all, up front, would like to echo and re-emphasize the statement made by the minister of finance regarding the mandate for booster vaccines for healthcare workers here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There is no such mandate,” Prince said.

“We are not going down that road. As a matter of fact, we are trying at this time to ease the responses to COVID-19 as we try to get back to normalcy. We are not trying to put any more constraints on people.

He said that the Aug. 5 memo sent by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Cuthbert Knight will be rescinded.

The memo said that the Cabinet had decided that healthcare workers would have to take a COVID-19 booster shot every five months to remain in their posts.

“As the [Finance] Minister said, there were some problems in terms of misinterpretation and some things were mis-transcribed and it got into the media,” Prince said.

“I would like to say it is not so. We would not go down that road immediately, we have not thought about it, we have been talking about encouraging people to take boosters, especially if you are vulnerable, especially if you have underlying conditions, older people and that kind of thing. It is optional.”

The minister expressed hope that people will get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying that the nation is not yet out of the woods.

“The public health emergency has not been lifted. We’re still under that particular condition, however, we have not decided that we should have mandatory boosters for health care workers. I hope we have made ourselves clear in that regard.”

Jimmy PRince Camillo Gonsalves
Minister of Health, Jimmy Prince, left, and Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves at the press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022.

‘a mis-transcribed note from the Cabinet’

At the beginning of the press conference, the finance minister said that the government has not mandated COVID-19 booster shots for health care workers.

“I understand that yesterday on social media and in some news outlets there were reports purporting to state that the Ministry of Health was mandating COVID booster shots for healthcare workers of words to that effect.

“I want to indicate to the public, unequivocally, that this is not the case,” Gonsalves said.

The finance minister further said there appears to have been “a mis-transcribed note from the Cabinet when we were discussing the easing of restrictions relating to teachers and civil servants”.

The cabinet also decided at the time that it would “strongly encourage the taking of booster shots for all citizens, but, in particular, frontline workers and healthcare workers,” Gonsalves said.

“And it appears that there was a mis-transcription of that decision that was sent to the permanent secretary, who then faithfully relayed that erroneous record of the Cabinet minutes to the health care workers and it was subsequently reported”.

The minister said that it was not the case that booster shots would be required for health care workers.

“The minutes of that cabinet meeting will only be reviewed tomorrow in Cabinet, so we didn’t catch it, so it went out but all of us were busy texting one another last night saying ‘Which mandate is this?’ “Who said that?’ ‘I don’t recall that.’

“And, the fact of the matter is, it did not occur. We do strongly, strongly urge all Vincentians and particularly all health care workers and frontline workers to take the booster but that urging is not in the form of a mandate. It is simply something that we would hope that people do for their own safety and for the safety of the people that they serve.”

Gonsalves said that on Monday night, when the memo became public, Cabinet ministers were busy texting each other, trying to figure out when the decision was made.

The minister, however, did not say anything about the frequency with which healthcare workers would have to take booster shots, as the prime minister said on July 28 that the Cabinet had decided.

The appearance of the note on social media Monday night generated much discussion, with the Public Service Union, which represents healthcare workers, describing it as “tyranny” and calling on health care workers to rally against it.

All the members of the Cabinet who are in St. Vincent attended Tuesday’s press conference, which was announced late Monday night, to update the media on the financing for the acute referral hospital that the government proposes to build at Arnos Vale.

The prime minister as well as Minister of National Mobilisation, Orando Brewster are on an official visit to Taiwan and Education Minister Curtis King is also said to be overseas on official duties.

Montgomery Daniel
Acting PRime Minister Montgomery Daniel at the press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022.

Acting PM asks PS ‘to withhold on that decision going forward’

Deputy Prime Minister Montgomery Daniel is heading the government.

The acting prime minister told the press conference it was “is regrettable that the information as it relates to the COVID-19 vaccine that is to be instituted by the Ministry of Health that the information which has gone out is not really of the decision of the Cabinet as I recall it”.

Daniel said that before the prime minister left the country, there was a Cabinet meeting specifically “to deal with the issue.

“And I am sure the prime minister himself will be somewhat shocked to hear that the decision that has gone out is not what was fully captured in the Cabinet”.

He said that the ministers of health and finance had “alluded to the fact that there was indeed some misconception as to what took place at the Cabinet and, of course, we will review at the Cabinet meeting tomorrow, the decision”.

He said he spoke with the permanent secretary in the ministry of health on Tuesday morning on the matter “and I’ve asked him to withhold on that decision going forward”.

The acting prime minister said that when he learnt of the information on Monday, he was “really taken aback” because he had met with the Ministry of Health for about 90 minutes that day and “this information was not even surfaced.

“As a matter of fact, we were discussing the annex that is to be placed at Orange Hill, where we will be taking care of the elderly in that area,” Daniel said.

Asked to clarify his statement to the permanent secretary “to withhold on that decision going forward”, Daniel said:

“Of course, you have heard all of the different pronouncements from the ministers – Minister of Health, Minister of Finance and economic planning that the cabinet has, in its decision, has never ever said that there are mandates for such vaccination and such boosters. And, therefore, the Cabinet, in its wisdom, has indicated strongly that we recommend vaccines and we recommend boosters and there is where we are.”

6 replies on “Health Minister apologises over COVID booster jabs mandate memo”

  1. Vincy Lawyer says:

    BS!!

    Allyo just didn’t expect the magnitude of the public’s kick back. Blame the PS but you people are NOT fooling a soul!

  2. Apologizes for what that’s not a mistake and if it is who make it should come and say sorry .Not you big […].

  3. It is time you wotliss set of cronies show some respect to the population. We are sure that the prospects motivated you change in chorus. But evolution can’t be stopped. Martyrs cannot be killed which is exactly what you are making the PSU.

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