Minister responds to queries – ‘No one can be forced to get jab’

Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete during the COVID-19 testing gears presentation by UNICEF and ADB at the Fiji Pharmaceutical Centre in Suva recently. Picture: FILE

No civil servant or any individual can be forced to be vaccinated, says Health Minster Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete.

Responding to questions during a virtual conference on whether it was compulsory for civil servants to be vaccinated, he said no one could be forced to get the jab.

However, Dr Waqainabete said, because of the second wave of COVID-19 affecting the nation, it was fundamental for people to get inoculated to protect their families, communities and the nation.

He said during a measles outbreak last year, more than 200,000 Fijians were vaccinated, protecting them from the spread of the deadly outbreak.

Dr Waqainabete said this would hold true for COVID-19 as getting the jabs would ensure the population was protected.

He said, however, looking at international trends and through conversations with the World Health Organization, vaccination would become a prerequisite for those wishing to travel abroad, adding this would be part of the “new normal”.

The Fiji Times also asked Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr James Fong about a recent directive from the Fiji Revenue and Customs Services for its employees to get vaccinated or be sent home.

“I presume the company needs to ensure that they are working within the ambits of the law,” he said.

This newspaper had also asked Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj two weeks ago about the rights of individuals who opted not to be vaccinated.

Yesterday, Mr Raj said he was aware of questions sent to him by The Fiji Times regarding the concerns of employees being threatened with termination if they were not vaccinated.

“I am aware that The Fiji Times had already run an article last week despite our pleas for it to await our statement,” he said.

“We will issue a statement to the country later.”

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