ST. JOHN’S, Antigua - The Antigua and Barbuda government has that all “frontline workers” are required to receive their booster vaccine shots “immediately” as the country seeks to ensure that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic “can meet with a strong readiness”.
A government statement said that the boosters would be administered “through a round robin system” that has already gone into effect and that those “who have underlying health conditions that make them most vulnerable to communicable diseases, are also encouraged to take the booster shot immediately”.
The statement said that all reports emanating from countries where the Omicron variant has struck, “indicate that Omicron is more easily spread than any of the previous variants, and it causes illness often requiring hospitalization.
“At the moment, vessels and aircraft discharge thousands of visitors almost daily at the Port and the airport, from our source markets; potential carriers of the Omicron variant are likely to be among those arriving passengers.
“The best defense against theCOVID-19 disease has been the several vaccines which have been deployed globally. The new variant requires an additional jab to strengthen the waning immunity of the previous two-shots’ vaccines.”
The government said it is urging “all residents and citizens to continue to abide by the established protocols” and that “frontline workers and the very vulnerable are especially required to defend themselves.
“Everyone is to wear masks in public, wash hands and sanitize frequently, and to maintain social distancing when in public spaces. The COVID -19 disease will continue to plague our population, impact jobs and economic performance, if these protocols are not adhered to, the statement added.
Last September, the government announced that all unvaccinated government employees, including those in the public service, statutory corporations and companies in which the government owns majority shares, are required to remain at home, and will not be paid from October 1, unless they can prove they have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
In his New Year’s message, Prime Minister Gaston Browne thanked health workers on the front-line adding “we will long remember them for their courage, skill and care.
“Equally, we will remember with deep regret the 119 persons who died. We still lament their untimely deaths in the grip of this dreaded disease, and we continue to join their families and loved ones in praying for the rest of their souls. But, even one death was too many.
“That is why, so many of us in our country call upon those who still refuse to be inoculated, to think again. Think particularly of young children who cannot help themselves and have to rely on the good sense of adults, to protect them and preserve lives, they have only just started to live.”
Browne said that as a father of young children, one of them 15 months old, he is frightened every day that they might be infected by a disease we know is debilitating and deadly.
“Like all other parents, I know the anguish and heart-rending pain that I would feel, if any of my young children were to be struck down by COVID. I do all in my power every day to protect them and I pray for God’s continued mercy,” he added.
He told the nation that while 2020 opens with new possibilities and challenges, “we will have to wear masks for some time yet, as we will have to continue physical distancing and the practice of handwashing and sanitizing.
“No people can avoid disease and pandemics or their economic and social impact; but, through leadership, we can choose to overcome the obstacles they present and to turn fear and paralysis to optimism and action,” Browne said.