Lord Tariq Ahmad, the British Minister responsible for Commonwealth relations, has made a direct appeal to the people of Montserrat to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
In an interview on the government-owned Radio Montserrat, the UK official said he was “really concerned when I heard about the reticence we've seen from some of the people in Montserrat.”
He appeared in the video call alongside Montserrat's Governor, Andrew Pearce, Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell and UK NHS advisor Professor Tim Cummings.
Vaccine hesitancy in Montserrat has meant that the island (population, 4,500 appx) has had the lowest vaccination rate in the overseas territories - around 30% - compared to other OTs averaging well over 60%.
The reluctance stems from concerns over incidents of blood clots associated with the UK Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which is being used in Montserrat. British and other global health officials have pointed out that this anomaly has only been observed in a small minority of cases globally.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca drug is also administered in the UK.
“I totally understand that there are some people who have been concerned about not being vaccinated, but I assure you that vaccines are safe,” Lord Ahmad assured.
“We've rolled out over 53 million vaccines, right here in the United Kingdom, and why I wanted to come on today is to express, not only our solidarity with the people of Montserrat but also assure you that they are safe, and you should go out and be vaccinated.”
An important issue is the expiration date of the current batch of vaccines donated to Montserrat by the British government.
“Now these vaccines need to be used up,” Lord Ahmad stated. “There are expiry dates on them and we need to make sure, for every vaccine that is wasted, that's one other person who has been denied the right together.”