Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has said the civil service will join the elected government in looking at developing legislation to require civil servants on government contracts to be vaccinated.
“This is an ongoing issue, it is not easy,” Manderson said, as he addressed Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing.
His statement came as amendments to the Immigration Transaction Act and Customs and Border Control Act proposing mandated vaccines for work-permit holders are now out for public consultation.
Manderson said he confirmed in a Zoom town hall with frontline workers that mandating vaccinations is “under consideration” as he said he was “very concerned” that not all civil servants on the front lines at Customs and Border Control and Travel Cayman were vaccinated.
“My greatest fear as head of the civil service is that I have to attend a funeral of a civil servant. I would never want to do that so I’m asking all the civil servants to get vaccinated and do not put me in that position,” he said.
Push for frontline workers to vaccinate
To this end, he said, legislation is being looked at in the absence of significant vaccination uptake in the civil service.
Back in April, he explained, a survey was done across the civil service which found 70% of those government workers were vaccinated.
He said an internal survey on frontline workers a month-and-a-half ago showed eight out of 10 frontline workers were vaccinated, but the survey was not “well taken up.”
Since then, Manderson said they have been doing a number of Zoom meetings with frontline workers and “I do believe our numbers are moving in the right direction.”
He said another survey is currently under way and part of the questionnaire asks whether the civil servant is vaccinated or not.
Coming out of the virtual town-hall meetings, he said, were a number of questions, one of which covered mandating vaccinations.
Premier to meet civil servants
He said there were concerns from vaccinated workers.
“We have staff voicing concern about working on the front line with unvaccinated staff members and we have staff members on the front line who say they will not get vaccinated. My pledge to the civil servants on the front line was that before we would make any decision about requiring vaccinations that I would meet with them, department to department, and I’m going to keep my word,” he said.
Manderson said Premier Wayne Panton agreed to meet with frontline workers via Zoom and “they could hear from him directly” some time next week.
He said some civil servants, since the Zoom town hall, have gotten vaccinated.
Manderson noted the civil service is committed to vaccinations and “we should be the leaders. We should lead as a world-class employer, so our numbers at the moment are not world class and we have to admit that, but we will do our best to ensure that the Cayman Islands government, our civil service… should have the highest vaccination rates in the island,” he said.
Cayman Airways, he pointed out, is at 100% vaccination and he said he told his team “we can’t have SAGC (statutory authorities and government companies) beating the civil service; we should be leading”.
“Our commitment is to continue to encourage civil servants to take the vaccine, as the premier and everyone says, it is the best thing to fight COVID,” Manderson added.