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Defence Force maintains COVID-19 vaccine for soldiers is not compulsory after “overzealous” memo

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Posted: Wednesday, June 16, 2021. 9:32 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Belize Defence Force (BDF) says it is not compulsory for soldiers to take the AstraZeneca COVID-19, or any other, in order to continue to participate in Force activities and especially promotional courses.

As a frontline agency in the fight against COVID-19, charged along with the Belize Police Department with protecting the borders from an influx of potential COVID-19 infected who have crossed the border for various purposes or are illegally sneaking into Belize, the BDF is constantly exposed to the disease, though it is not known how many (if any) active cases there are among the Force at the moment.

A restricted communication sent to Breaking Belize News appears to be a Vaccination Declaration Form which reads, “I do hereby declare that in order to keep myself, my family, colleagues and Belizeans safe during this pandemic, I willingly submit to being vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. I also fully understand that refusal to do so will result in me not being able to partake in future training or courses provided by, through or in partnership with the Belize Defence Force.”

Reached for comment, Minister of National Defense and Border Security Florencio Marin, Jr., sent along a Force Memorandum issued today, titled “Vaccination (BDF Policy) is not compulsory.”

Writing the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry for Commander Brigadier General Steven Ortega, Major Rogelio Ramirez, Force Adjutant, stated the document in question was produced by a Battalion Commander in a decision that was “overzealous.”

“[This document] goes against the Force Policy. The Belize Defence Force[‘s] Force Policy remains to be voluntary vaccination and not compulsory,” Major Ramirez wrote, adding that the offending commander “will be counselled.”

The circumstances surrounding the issuance of the document is not known at this time. Neither is what percentage of soldiers have taken the vaccine, and why and for what reason any soldier is refusing to do so. We will continue to follow the story.

More than 70 thousand Belizeans have been given at least one dose of vaccine and about 17 thousand are fully vaccinated.

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