Several other countries in the Eastern Caribbean could follow Antigua and Barbuda and effect mandatory vaccination laws on all eligible persons living in the country. This after being told that their constitutions have ample provisions to support the move.
However, the development has been observed by a regional public sector trade union that has called the mandatory testing and vaccination laws “unfortunate.”
Caribbean Public Services Association(CPSA) General Secretary, Thomas Letang in a media release has said that CPSA has been paying attention to the 16-page confidential brief titled: “The legal dimensions of mandatory/compulsory requirement for Covid-19 vaccination.” The document was produced by two Caribbean-born internationally respected jurists.
Letang in his response to the legal arguments presented in the document said that it lacks the sensitivity of the human element and one’s personal right to determine what foreign objects or substances should or shouldn’t be allowed in one’s body. He went on to say that while the CPSA understands the magnitude and seriousness of the pandemic, one should not ignore the concerns being expressed by those who have reservations about taking the vaccine.
Mandatory vaccination has been a talking point not only in the Eastern Caribbean States but in the wider Caricom region too. Governments have been urging their populations to get vaccinated as an option to curb the spread of the virus that has led to border closures, economic lockdowns, as well as curfews, and state of emergences being mandated. Despite this, Letang is urging regional governments to take a collaborative approach in implementing policies and measures. He said that consultation is lacking and insists that if it is practiced the region could have greater success in dealing with the pandemic. He made the point that workers’ conditions of employment during the pandemic were being changed and unions were finding out through the media.
The General Secretary noted that while CPSA supports vaccination, there is still uncertainty of how effective the vaccine will be or what other side effects may emerge in the future. It is for this reason, Letang argues that CPSA cannot support mandatory vaccination at the moment and instead recommended voluntary vaccination and education for building trust in the government and the vaccine.
However, in the Eastern Caribbean, Dominicans have voiced their opinion about the implementation of mandatory vaccination on the island, and St. Vincent and Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves was struck in the head with a rock by citizens protesting the policy in August.
On September 15, Gaston Brown’s administration in Antigua and Barbuda made vaccination mandatory after an escalation of cases in the previous weeks. Two of the policies read as follows: “As of 1st October 2021, No Public Sector Employees, inclusive of Statutory Corporations and companies of which the government holds majority shares shall be paid a salary or wage for the period of non-compliance with the current policy.” And, “All arriving passengers including returning nationals and residents are required to have received at least the first dose of a vaccine approved by the appropriate authorities in Antigua and Barbuda.”
In the media release, the Caribbean Public Services Association, which is a 50-year regional public sector trade union association urged other Caribbean islands to adopt the policy promoted by Barbadian Prime Minister, Mia Mottley who said: “Covid-19 should not be allowed to divide us as a people or nation.”