Published 11 February, 2021
Buckie Got It, St. Kitts and Nevis News Source
Government can count the Rastafari community out of any vaccination programme to be implemented in the coming days.
Furthermore, said the Rastafari Progressive Movement (RPM), should the targeted herd immunity numbers not be achieved, the Rastafari community should also be exempted from any form of “forced vaccination”.
In a statement sent to Barbados TODAY , the RPM, asked that its position be respected.
“As Barbados gets ready to roll out its COVID-19 vaccine distribution programme, the Rastafari Progressive Movement (RPM) reiterates its stance that the Rastafari community will not be taking any COVID-19 vaccine,” it said.
Pointing out that a United Nations treaty, to which Barbados was a signatory, categorized Rastafari as indigenous, the RPM said “As such, its lifestyle, including spiritual, health and economic modalities and methodologies must be recognized and respected by the Barbados government.”
The minority group said that in a letter to Prime Minister Mia Mottley recently, it outlined the basis on which members were rejecting the jab, which required two doses.
He noted that the letter indicated that the Rastafari community is fully cognizant of the health risks that have been attributed to such vaccines and the short period in which they were developed and that they are largely untested, but that this was not the basis on which the exemption was being sought.
“The communication to the Prime Minister went on to say, ‘the fundamental lifestyle of Rastafari as it pertains to health concerns, is based on the use of natural herbs, barks, seeds, leaves and such. It is also based on a diet that restricts Rastafari to consumption of foods that are natural, or what we refer to as Ital. This excludes the use of processed foods, salt and anything that will have a negative impact on our bodies (health).
“This exaggerated health-conscious way of living is founded in the understanding that our bodies are the living temples of the most high, and as such they must be kept free from anything that would negatively impact on this cleanliness. Further to this, clean energy is also an acknowledgement of Rastafari and this has inspired a diet that is vegan in essence. This lifestyle has been acknowledged by many who have studied the movement of Rastafari, as one that promotes good health and a strong immune system.”
Acknowledging that authorities have already indicated that the COVID-19 vaccination will not be mandatory, the RPM said “However, being aware that it has been promoted that 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated to effect ‘herd immunity’, RPM is of the opinion that should this target amount not be met, some form of forced vaccination taking would be implemented.
“As such, RPM seeks to emphatically state that the Rastafari community must be exempted from any such action by the Government. RPM through the above mentioned letter to the Prime Minister, has requested to have a Zoom meeting with her pertaining to this issue,” it added.
However, it said to date, it has received no response other than to acknowledge receipt.
It is estimated that the Rastafari community makes up under two per cent of the Barbados population.
Adding that it would continue to seek a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Rastafari Progressive Movement suggested that Government amend legislation to allow the use of marijuana.
“Under the indigenous lifestyle of Rastafari as it pertains to health observances, it is immoral, unethical, and illegal for the Government to keep access to cannabis, a crucial component to the Rastafari’s health regime, illegal. Legislation for the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Industry must be amended to reflect this, as Rastafari seek to better strengthen themselves against the coronavirus (COVID -19),” said the RPM.
On Tuesday, Barbados received 100, 000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine from the Government of India, which will be enough to inoculate 50,000 people, who will require two doses to be adequately vaccinated.
Government has indicated that the first set of people to be vaccinated were frontline workers including health workers, members of the armed forces and hotel workers, as well as those considered most vulnerable.
The Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP), which represents more than 25,000 members who are 50 years old and over, has already asked to be placed at the front of the line for the inoculation.