Jamaica is at a critical stage in the execution of the vaccination strategy. With over 500,000 doses currently available, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) along with the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) and the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) believe that the time is now for private sector entities to establish policies that require employees to get vaccinated.
Jamaica Left Behind in Vaccination Race
With less than 10% of the population fully vaccinated almost two years into the pandemic, Jamaica is being left behind with achieving population immunity and is putting our recovery at risk. The social and economic impact will be devastating, and the ripple effects will continue for years to come.
We are firm in our position that private sector entities must ensure that we have a safe workplace where the spread of the COVID19 virus is minimised and therefore protecting the lives of customers workers and suppliers. A vaccination policy not only saves lives it reduces disruption in businesses and sustains productivity.
Private Sector Vaccination Policies
The PSOJ, JMEA, JCC, the Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF) and Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) in September 2021 issued a comprehensive guideline on COVID safety measures in the workplace and the relevant legal duties of the employers and employees. The protocol recommends that employers start the process by undertaking a risk assessment to ascertain the level of risk presented in the work environment. It thereafter recommends that businesses develop vaccine policies that are suited for their respective business model and industry, noting the steps outlined in the guidelines. Special consideration may need to be given for medical or religious conditions.
The general recommendation is for employees to be taken through vaccine awareness programmes and given an opportunity to take the vaccine which is now widely available. After this period of engagement and education, the employer should reassess any risks which may still exist and ensure mitigating steps are taken – this could include requesting that a COVID test is done periodically.
Public Sector Vaccination Policy
In addition to the above recommendations, we are of the view that the national problem of the low vaccination rate requires more far-reaching measures. We would encourage and support the Government selectively using its powers under the DRMA to introduce incremental requirements for vaccination to protect the public, just as it has imposed other measures. A specific example would be the Government implementing vaccination policies and protocols in a phased manner for the public sector, similar to what has been instituted by the private sector and unions.
Utilise the Services of the PSVI
The associations would like to remind private sector companies to utilize the resources of the Private Sector Vaccine Initiative (PSVI) to get credible resources and support for their vaccination awareness programmes and to schedule vaccination for their team members.