Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili has ruled out compulsory vaccination against COVID-19 in the country, despite local health authorities pushing for the policy for certain groups.
Speaking to journalists on Sunday, the PM said that as chair of the COVID-19 Coordination Council and as Prime Minister, he would ‘not allow’ compulsory vaccination.
His comments come as local health authorities warn that the country has entered a fifth wave, with the highest infection rates since the end of August. On Sunday, Georgia’s 7-day rolling average for new cases per 1 million inhabitants was the third highest in the world. Just 32% of the population has so far been fully vaccinated.
Gharibashvili said ‘not force’ people to get vaccinated. ‘This is very important. We should convince them that vaccination is the only solution to fight this pandemic’, he said.
Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze, while highlighting that the government should ‘refrain from any coercive measures as much as possible’, also said that no one person would decide on the issue alone.
‘We will discuss it in the Coordination Council and then make a joint decision’, she said.
Tikaradze had previously urged Gharibashvili to get vaccinated himself. The PM received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on 8 August amidst mounting pressure to do so.
Both the head of the National Centre for Disease Control, Amiran Gamkrelidze, and the director of the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Tengiz Tsertsvadze, have spoken out in favour of compulsory vaccination for several groups of people.
On Sunday, the two top public health officials advocated for vaccines to be mandatory for medical workers and teachers, as well as pregnant women.
Unlike in Georgia, vaccination in Armenia and Azerbaijan has been mandatory for several weeks.
In Armenia, which had lagged behind in the number vaccines being administered until recently, a law on compulsory vaccination came into force on 1 October. The law mandates that most employees be either vaccinated or submit bi-weekly PCR tests. The Health Ministry has also stated that vaccine certificates or PCR tests would soon be required to enter cafes, restaurants, and other public places.
Mandatory vaccination for state employees became mandatory in Azerbaijan on 1 September.
[Read more OC Media: Azerbaijan pursues doctors selling fake COVID-19 passports]-