BY MAVIS N PODOKOLO
PUBLIC servants working for both the national and provincial governments risk losing their jobs if they choose not to get vaccinated.
Members of their families are also required to get their jabs as the Government takes new and tougher measures to protect the country from COVID-19.
Health minister Dr Culwick Togamana announced these new measures yesterday after Cabinet approved them last Friday.
Togamana said the mandatory administration of COVID vaccines will apply to:
- all public servants and employees of the central and provincial governments and eligible members of their families,
- all staff of state-owned enterprises [SOEs] and other government institutions/subsidiaries and eligible members of their families,
- employees of private companies undertaking work at the front-lines – such as shipping agents, airlines, stevedores, crews of fishing vessels and eligible members of their families.
Togamana said under the mandatory COVID-19 administration, those who choose not to get vaccinated will not be allowed to access their place of employment and will also be chosen as “self-terminated”.
He said persons coming under these three groups in the provinces where there is COVID-19 vaccination rollout, had already commenced.
This includes Honiara, Western, Choiseul, Guadalcanal and Malaita Outer Islands.
“They must now receive their first doses of COVID-19 vaccination by 31st August 2021 and their second dose by 30 November 2021,” Togamana stated.
“Any person covered under the above categories who chooses not to get their 1st dose of vaccination by 31st August, will not be allowed to access their place of employment,” he added.
“And any person in the three categories not fully vaccinated by 30th November 2021 will be taken as having chosen to self-terminate their employment.”
For provinces where vaccination rollout has not yet commenced, Togamana said all employees under the above three categories will have 60 days [2 months] to get their first dose of vaccination and the last date to take their 2nd dose of vaccination will be 12 weeks from the date of the closing day for the 1st dose period.
“Like those in Honiara, Western, Choiseul, Guadalcanal provinces and Malaita Outer Islands, any person under the above categories who chooses not to receive their first dose by the end of the period for taking the first dose, will not be allowed to access their workplaces.
“And if they still choose not to be vaccinated by the closing date of the 2nd dose period will be taken as having chosen to self-terminate their employment.”
Togamana said Cabinet has also agreed to set a national vaccination mark to attain 80 percent 1st dose vaccination coverage nationally by 30th November 2021, and an 80percent 2nd dose vaccination coverage nationally by 28 February 2022.
“The government respects people’s individual choices.
“However, the government has a duty of care to protect the total population of Solomon Islands.
“During this pandemic the only thing that has been effective in preventing or altering the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic is full and effective vaccination coverage of the total eligible population.
“As a responsible government, we will not wait for community transmission to occur before making vaccination mandatory.
“We must ensure our total eligible population is vaccinated before COVID-19 has a chance to reach our communities.
“We need to learn from the lessons of other countries around us to do the right thing.
“We are in this fight together.
“We must vaccinate together to protect those that rely on us to protect them because they cannot be vaccinated themselves – our children below 18 years of age.”
Togamana said it will be totally irresponsible on responsible eligible citizens’ part not to protect them (children below 18 years of age), by not getting vaccinated.
“For those employees in the above three categories that choose not to be vaccinated, we will not stand in your way, but accept that the choices you make will also have its own consequences.
“I call on all eligible Solomon Islanders to think about how best you can protect the unprotected members of your families, your provinces and our country from COVID-19 and be vaccinated instead of sitting on the fence or spreading false information about COVID-19 vaccines.
“We can only protect our people and our country if we work together – and the only proven way to fight COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.
“It is not the government’s intention to punish people. Its intention is to protect the total population of this country from COVID-19,” he said.
Togamana said appropriate legal instruments are being put in place to ensure this mandatory requirement to protect the nation is implemented within the framework of the law.