BY MAVIS N PODOKOLO
Frontliners have been told to take the vaccine or resign.
Attorney General John Muria Jnr uttered this warning on Sunday following the low turnout of frontliners to be vaccinated in the first three days after last week’s launch of the country’s covid-19 vaccination programme, in which leaders including prime minister Manasseh Sogavare took the jab to prove their confidence in the vaccine’s safety.
Attorney General’s ironic statement may put government in a tight spot, insiders say.
Government does not want to have to force frontline workers into taking the jab, banking on the mutual understanding that being vaccinated is an essential requirement for frontliners going forward.
But after last week’s hesitancy by the frontliners, early this week prime minister Sogavare ordered permanent secretaries of the public service ministry and health ministry to circulate emails instructing their staff to be jabbed before close of business yesterday, Wednesday, March 31.
This directive left no choice for frontliners. Beginning Monday this week, huge queues marked the central field hospital up to yesterday.
Attorney General John Muria Junior during the latest radio talkback show on Sunday described last week’s low turnout as a show of ‘insubordination’.
“The government has put a rule for frontline workers to be vaccinated and when a person breaches the rule it is called insubordination. Hence, if you do not want to comply with government rules then submit your resignation letter.
“The other thing is that if you do not want to receive the vaccine and want to receive to be part of the frontline workers and you after happened to contract the virus should the government be responsible to care for you after disobeying its rules, I don’t think so. Therefore, if you want to work for government adhere to what the government says by get vaccinated and continue serving this country,” he said.
Permanent secretary Public Services Nego Sisiolo in an urgent circular memorandum on March 29, said:
“I hereby issued a vital instruction to all front-line and immediate support personnel following SIG ,ministries and agencies(i) MHMS – ministry HQ, and NRH and Guadalcanal Province; (ii) MHA- Honiara City Council (HCC); (iii) MPNSCS- Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and the Correctional Services of Solomon Islands; (iv) MCILI- Immigrations, (v) MoFT -Customs; (vi) MAL -Biosecurity (vii) MCA -Civil aviation and (viii) MFMT-fisheries observers to immediately get vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than the close of business on Wednesday 31 March 2021.
“Furthermore, based on the same directives, I issued instruction to rest of us public servants to also get our vaccinations in accordance to the vaccination schedules that will be advised to us soon by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.”
Permanent Secretary Health and Medical Services Pauline McNeil in her circular to all MHMS staff, National Referral Hospital staff and Provincial Directors made a plea for her staff to go forward and get vaccinated.
Mrs McNeil said health frontline workers have sacrificed much care for the country and people in fighting against covid-19 skillfully, bravely and tirelessly in more than 12 months ago.
She made example of the country’s nearest Melanesian neighbour, PNG, “they have recorded deaths and new COVID-19 cases with hospital and health services already closed down and some on verge of collapsing as more health workers and citizens become infected.
“This makes this call even urgent and I am therefore pleading to all of you to please make time today to be screened and encouraged to take the AstraZeneca vaccine. For Provincial colleagues, be on standby and be ready when your turn comes.
“Thanking each every one of you for your co-operation and for adhering to this urgent call,” said McNeil.