Time for mandatory vaccinations

FILE PHOTO: Jeffrey Herrera receives a covid19 booster from nurse Avril Quinton Phillip at the drive-through vaccination facility at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on December 14, 2021. - SUREASH CHOLAI
FILE PHOTO: Jeffrey Herrera receives a covid19 booster from nurse Avril Quinton Phillip at the drive-through vaccination facility at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on December 14, 2021. - SUREASH CHOLAI


We are now about to enter pandemic year number three, and every time we think we are turning a corner, a new stumbling block occurs.

Most of us thought a vaccine would be the solution and were not accounting for the high number of hesitant people worldwide, given that all around the world, vaccination is a customary practice.

We toyed with and debated what would happen in the real instance of unequal access to vaccines for poorer countries for a prolonged period and the grave disadvantages and severe risks of more virus variants spreading worldwide.

What instead happened and seemed to play a more detrimental role in our “corner-turning” was the matter of trust in leaders, which only intensified existing societal divisions.

Each country is now dealing with its unique circumstances of cultural and political scenarios, reflected by its recorded number of deaths, periods of lockdowns, and the rate of virus spread due to hesitant, disbelieving citizens who still do not trust the politicians and scientists. They clearly seem to believe the wild conspiracy theories as opposed to scientific facts.

Here at home, we believe that a billboard or advertisement with a “trusted voice” will change the minds of the hesitant, after they have done their online “research,” and listened to the radio/TV hosts who might have known a friend who knows Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend. Yes, the same one who brought us international spotlight and global attention.

Our workplace and workflow will continue to be disrupted every time quarantine orders are mandated, and so too will our economic recovery. So I for one have been and will continue to support workplace and mass vaccination policies, safe zones, etc.

I believe that we have come to the point where we need to enforce mandatory vaccination for those without plausible exemptions. Too many "RIPs" are showing up on my timeline, and harrowing stories from the recovered. Not to mention the unimaginable strain on our frontline workers and facilities.

In this regard, I applaud the summary opinion of Sir Dennis Byron and Prof Rosemarie Antoine, which was reported recently in the Express.

In this December 2021 file photo, Port of Spain General Hospital doctor Ariel Janelle Mendez shows her vaccination card after receiving her covid19 booster shot at the Paddock, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. - FILE PHOTO/SUREASH CHOLAI

The report states, “In their brief to OECS leaders, Byron and Antoine stated that a mandatory covid19 vaccine law is likely to be constitutional if governments were to utilise this route in getting their populations vaccinated.”

Their opinion is based on government’s legal rights as a public health imperative.

This is the only light I see, but it needs to be handled and instituted with caution.

We ought not to forget that all children entering primary schools are required to be vaccinated; this is a mandatory part of that public health imperative. Hence it is expected that workers being hired, having gone through the primary-school level, must have been vaccinated, based on that mandatory requirement.

A recent landmark judgement from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Vavřička and others v Czech Republic (2021) ECHR 116, also legitimises laws mandating vaccines in a public health crisis, opening the door to mandatory covid19 vaccines.

The ECHR ruled that a compulsory national childhood vaccination programme against hepatitis, etc, did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights. Indeed, the court held that compulsory vaccination can be considered "necessary in a democratic society."

This is likely to be persuasive, given the similarity of the EU Convention to Caribbean constitutions.

In Claim No SU 2021 CV 04366 Kaidan Parkins et al v Cari-Med Group Ltd & Kirk-FP Ltd, Kaidan issued a written covid19 policy to all companies within its group of companies which required all employees to present proof of vaccination against covid19 or other such disease unless a reasonable exemption is approved.

The policy also stated that employees who failed to comply were required to present a negative PCR test every two weeks, at the employee’s expense, from an approved laboratory.

The court stated that there was no infringement to right of freedom, thought, conscience, belief, or observance of political doctrine, as the claimants disclosed their discontent with the policy and then chose not to comply with the policy. They did not adduce any evidence that these rights have been interfered with by the defendant.

All governments have a right to consider the greater good for society overall – taxes are a prime example. It is not a matter of personal choice but because it benefits the society that we make our contributions. Whether we agree on how they get allocated is a different discussion, but the point remains working together for the good of all.

Currently, we are fortunate to have access to different types of vaccine, as some countries are still highlighting their need for access and making it accessible for their citizens.

I see vaccine mandates alongside the bridging of trust and education as the pathway forward. A lot of the vaccine hesitancy is deeply entrenched in the psyche of citizens. Some even say they would prefer to die rather than take the vaccine, so many of them are indeed dying at an alarming rate.

Shots in arms are the only way out of pandemic year three, and in this regard, I completely support such mandates, legislation, regulations or company policy, regardless of whether they may constitute unilateral amendments to existing terms and conditions of employment.


"Time for mandatory vaccinations"

More in this section