Public sector employees must declare vaccination status and intention by 4 Jan, as Govt presses on

Trinidad and Tobago public sector workers must declare their vaccination status by 4 January 2022 along with their willingness ‘to avail themselves of the services that will be offered at the special vaccination sites’, as the Government pushes ahead with its controversial ‘Public Service and Public Sector Vaccination Programme’.

The instruction was part of a circular memorandum issued yesterday by acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Administration, Claudelle McKellar. That ministry is responsible for implementing the vaccination roll-out in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

Photo: CMO Dr Roshan Parasram takes his Covid-19 vaccine shot in 2021.
(via MoH)

As of Old Year’s Day, all permanent secretaries and heads of department were mandated to collect data for each ministry/department/agency (MDA) in the country—so as ‘to ensure the smooth flow of the vaccination programme’.

The information to be provided to the Ministry of Public Administration for the launch of what the circular described as a ‘Quasi Safe Zone Policy’ is:

  • The vaccination status of their organisation (number of persons vaccinated and number of persons not vaccinated) on or before 4 January 2022;
  • The names of persons wishing to avail themselves of the services that will be offered at the special vaccination sites;
  • The names and contact information of persons who will be willing to serve as ushers at the two locations;
  • The name and contact information of a focal point for the MDA and with whom the Ministry of Public Administration and the Ministry of Health will liaise for the implementation of the programme.

Apart from the dozens of active vaccination sites, public service and public sector workers will have two dedicated locations to be vaccinated: the Auditorium Restaurant, Government Campus on Richmond Street in Port-of-Spain; and the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) in San Fernando.

Photo: A police officer receives the Covid-19 vaccine in 2021.
(via TTPS)

The memorandum suggested that the Government Campus is equipped to vaccinate 1,440 persons per day while SAPA seems able to manage 280.

‘It is the Government’s policy that the public sector will operate as quasi-safe zones with effect from 17 January 2022,’ stated the memo. ‘This means that the operations of organisations within the public sector (ministries, departments, agencies, authorities, corporations and companies) are to be conducted only by employees who have provided proof of having received the appropriate vaccination exemption.

‘Further details on this policy—and in particular the impact on those persons who at the commencement date are only partially vaccinated—will be provided on publication of the relevant regulations.’

On 18 December 2021, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley declared that, as the country’s largest employer, Government will ask its employees to be vaccinated as a means of safeguarding the nation against Covid-19 and pushing the two-island republic closer to ‘herd immunity’.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi have a word in Parliament on 21 October 2021.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

Employees who refuse will be ‘furloughed’ without pay. Neither the Prime Minister nor Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has yet pointed to the legislation that will be the basis for their proposed actions within the Public Sector.

Some industries within the private sector are already compelled to prove the vaccination status of employees and customers so as to operate within a ‘safe zone’. And the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (Amcham) immediately urged Dr Rowley to include the private sector in whatever ‘mandatory vaccination’ legislation might be on the way.

However, perhaps predictably, the move was met with immediate resistance from several trade union leaders who complained about a lack of prior consultation and insisted that any such order would either be unconstitutional or provide insufficient protection against the novel coronavirus in any case.

In May 2021, Market Facts and Opinions (MFO) declared that only 35% of the population was willing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 while 20% was uncertain and 45% did not wish to take the jab.

Image: The MFO survey, which focuses on the ‘national perception of vaccines’, was conducted between 14 April and 3 May.

The MFO conducted the survey between 14 April and 3 May and divided its interviewees into three main groups—advocates, uncertains, and reluctants—and noted the dominant characteristics of each.

The Advocates (24% of population)

  • Most optimistic about getting the vaccine once it becomes available; 
  • Believes that the government is doing its best to secure vaccines; 
  • 45-64 years;
  • African;
  • Affluent.

The Uncertains (37 % of population)

  • Undecided about getting the vaccine once it becomes available; 
  • Least likely to believe that the government is doing its best to secure vaccines;
  • East Indian;
  • Male.

The Reluctants (40 % of population)

  • Least optimistic about getting the vaccine once it becomes available;
  • Believes that the government is doing its best to secure vaccines;
  • Female.
Photo: Nurse Keisha Gomes Prevatt (left) was first to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in February 2021.
All public servants, including nurses, are required to be vaccinated by mid-January 2022 to be allowed to access their workplace.
(via TTT online)

At present, the Government has vaccinated roughly 47% of the Trinidad and Tobago population. The Prime Minister hopes to significantly add to those numbers through  his public sector/ service campaign.

‘The successful implementation of this policy requires the active support and participation of all Government employees and, in particular, the leadership in each entity,’ stated the memo. ‘Permanent secretaries and heads of department are asked to vigorously encourage all their staff to avail themselves of the opportunity to vaccinate as well as continue to adhere to all of the existing public health guidelines designed to stop the spread of Covid-19.’

McKellar vowed to provide follow-up information to permanent secretaries and heads of department including:

  • Date and time-slots assigned to MDAs;
  • The measures to be put in place to maintain operations up to the middle of January 2022;
  • Treatment of staff who fail to provide proof of vaccination as at 17 January 2022.

The memo closed by stating that ‘permanent secretaries and heads of departments are reminded that the Quasi-Safe Zone Policy in the public sector does not constitute a mandatory vaccination programme’.

Photo: Police officers applaud the hard work of the country’s nurses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Less than half of the TTPS is vaccinated.
(via TTPS)

As of 31 December 2021, Trinidad and Tobago had 15,797 active cases of Covid-19 and 91,899 positive cases since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, according to information from the Ministry of Health. There has been a total of 2,869 deaths of infected persons with 711 fatalities coming in the last month.

The Ministry of Health yesterday confirmed the 12th case of the Omicron variant, a returning national who travelled home from Pakistan via Qatar and Miami.

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  1. I can just see the lawyers rubbing their hands together at the moola going to roll in… Talk about breach of privacy and data breach!

  2. Very good.

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