Deadlier virus, breached guidelines forces gov’t to consider compulsory vaccination


By Vishani Ragobeer

Though vaccination is not mandatory in Guyana, the presence of the deadlier form of the coronavirus and continued breach of the COVID-19 guidelines has forced the government to consider whether it should be compulsory for adults to take the COVID-19 vaccines.

During an interview with the News Room on Saturday, Advisor to the Ministry of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, lamented that people have not been adhering to the guidelines instituted to keep the population safe from the spread and adverse impact of the novel coronavirus.

“In spite of the warning circulating that the virus circulating now is a more dangerous virus, a more deadly virus, we seem to think that we are immune that we are not going to be infected by the virus,” Dr. Ramsammy lamented.

He explained that if individuals do not wear their face masks properly and avoid large gatherings, then more people will become infected with the virus. Once more people are infected, it means that additional individuals would be more vulnerable to the severe and possibly, fatal effects of the virus.

Dr Leslie Ramsammy, Advisor to the Ministry of Health (Photo: News Room/ March 16 2021)

Dr. Ramsammy also explained that each time the virus is spread from person to person, it undergoes some change. Cognisant of this, he stated that the SARS-Cov-2 (the virus that causes the disease, COVID-19) currently circulating in Guyana is different from the SARS-Cov-2 that was first detected in March 2020.

To combat the spread of this constantly mutating virus, Dr. Ramsammy underscored that widespread vaccination is the solution and not necessarily a total lockdown of the country.

“The same energy that we have to use for a lockdown, we have to use that same energy for people coming to take their vaccines and if we take our vaccines, we will bring some control about,” Dr. Ramsammy highlighted.

When asked if vaccination would, therefore, be made compulsory, the Advisor said: “It’s on the table (but) we haven’t made a decision.”

He hastened to add, however, that the local authorities do not want to make taking the COVID-19 vaccines compulsory since, for about 60 years, Guyana has been administering vaccines but has never made it mandatory.

Even as the local health authorities do not necessarily want to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory, Dr. Ramsammy related that some countries and even some companies are asking for individuals to be vaccinated.

At a recent press conference, President Dr. Irfaan Ali said the government is prepared to examine all options to help Guyana recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, including a “vaccine passport” in the face of hesitancy by some to get vaccinated and the recklessness of some persons in flouting guidelines put in place to prevent the spread of the disease.

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