Chief-of-Staff, President defend compulsory vaccination of soldiers

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 July 2021, 18:44 by Denis Chabrol

Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Godfrey Bess.

The Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier Godfrey Bess and President Irfaan Ali on Thursday defended a decision to order the compulsory vaccination of soldiers.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that our soldiers are fit to defend this country at all costs. There is a saying in GDF and our soldiers know that once you join the Guyana Defence Force, it is service first. Our bodies belong to the State of  Guyana,” he told reporters.

Mr. Bess said since the order was issued 70 percent of the soldiers- and 100 percent of several units- have taken vaccines against the coronavirus, COVID-19, that has so far claimed more than 500 lives. “It has been astronomically issued after that,” the Chief-of-Staff said.

He said those who have not taken the jab have been instructed to take PCR tests every two weeks at their own cost. Brigadier Bess said a number of soldiers have been exempted for medical reasons based on advice by the GDF’s Medical Officer.

President Ali also sought to justify the mandatory vaccination for Guyanese servicemen. “This is a pandemic. This is not a joke and you have to get tough sometimes,” he said, adding that measures have to be put in place to deal with irresponsible persons who refuse to be vaccinated.

President Dr. Irfaan Ali

The President said the Guyana government was mulling a number of options to stem the number of infections and deaths. Those include a limited number of face-masked attendees at cinemas and restaurants along with proof of vaccination. “If you are not vaccinated then you’ll have to wait a bit,” he remarked.

Dr. Ali also highlighted the importance of teachers being vaccinated to pave the way for the reopening of schools because of the adverse impact of the coronavirus, COVID-19, on face-to-face in-person classes.

He restated that whenever the Pfizer vaccines become available, they would be administered to school children.

The Guyanese leader said that the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has decided that member states would allow nationals who are vaccinated.