by Curlan Campbell
- Grenadians Against Mandatory Vaccines staged protest at Grand Anse
- Grenada Empowerment Movement provided support
- Frank Belfon supports unvaccinated fellow vendors unable to vend at market
Protesters against the Covid-19 vaccine say they are pro-freedom, not ‘anti-vax.’ While the government has not made Covid-19 vaccines mandatory, unvaccinated people are being met with restrictions to freely operate.
Current regulations mandate proof of Covid-19 vaccination for patrons to dine in-house at restaurants and for other businesses to operate. This requirement coupled with the drive to increase vaccine uptake by the public is met with hesitancy from some members of the public.
As a result, market vendors staged a protest in front of the Grand Anse Craft and Spice Market with support from the Grenadians Against Mandatory Vaccines (GAMV) on Monday, 18 October. PRO of the group Kelon Phillip said they have more than 200 supporters. “I am not against vaccines. I have taken all of my vaccines as a child,” Phillip said.
Earl Maitland, leader of the Grenada Empowerment Movement (GEM), also provided support for the protest movement. “People have a right to choose natural immunity or manmade immunity. This is not an anti-vax movement, but it is pro-choice. Many people believe that people who do not want to be injected with Covid-19 vaccines are anti-vax.”
An anonymous female protestor said that she recently recovered from Covid-19 and much prefers natural immunity over receiving immunity through vaccination. However, with increasing pressure on businesses to ensure that employees and patrons are fully vaccinated, she said this will certainly affect her livelihood. “I operate a food and beverage business for the past 9 years, and now I have to take a vaccine to operate my business and I have a lot of stuff in my business which is near to expire. This is affecting me socially, mentally and financially, because I am also a single parent and I have a child to feed and that is my only way of living.”
Frank Belfon, a craft vendor for 50 years, joined with the protesters although he is fully vaccinated. He said while opting to receive the vaccine, he believes that people should have the right to not be vaccinated. Belfon is also standing in support of his fellow vendors who are unvaccinated as they will not be able to vend at the market. “I took the vaccine by choice because I made up my mind to take it, and I think that should be everybody’s choice whether to take the vaccine or not. So, I am totally against forcing people to take the vaccine.”
General Practitioner, member of the Covid-19 Response Team, and former Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Health, Dr Francis Martin is among professionals actively engaging communities on the need to become vaccinated. He believes that a new approach is needed in order to reach the people where they are at, in terms of first understanding their hesitancy to be vaccinated. “The strategy must now be how do we engage communities at their level. Look and see what has been successful in communities in raising awareness and helping people to take ownership of their behaviours.”
Grenada is experiencing signs of a downturn in outbreaks, and Dr Martin believes an all-in approach must be taken. “The Grenadian population has an opportunity to stop the second wave by ensuring that we use this period of a lull to protect ourselves by vaccination and ensuring that we entrenched our protocols of hand sanitisation, mask-wearing, and a sensible physical distancing. We all need to understand that it is possible to stop the second wave.”
As of Monday, 18 October 2021, Grenada’s Covid-19 statistics had recorded 29,485 people as fully vaccinated; 5,769 cumulative positive cases with 193 Covid-related deaths; 5,440 total recoveries; and 136 active cases including 23 new cases.