— precedent suggests mandatory vaccination not unconstitutional
ATTORNEY-GENERAL and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C., has appealed to the public at large to get vaccinated in a bid to protect themselves and their loved ones against the deadly COVID-19 virus, and for the population at large to refute misinformation which is being peddled to perpetuate vaccine hesitancy.
Nandlall made the plea during his weekly television broadcast, ‘Issues In The News’, and during his visits to various parts of the country to kickstart the distribution of the ‘Because We Care’ education cash grant where he specially appealed to teachers and parents.
“Not a single person who has taken the vaccine has died. It means that the vaccines are working… you have to be really reckless to continue to expose yourself to this deadly virus when there is a vaccine that you can have access to free of cost,” Nandlall said.
“You should protect, if not yourself, the ones that you love because when you get the virus you expose others, you expose your family, you expose your friends, you expose those with whom you come in contact,” he added.
As of Tuesday last, Guyana has been able to vaccinate some 50 per cent of its population with one of the three vaccines the government has procured and made available to citizens. The Attorney-General acknowledged the major milestone; however, he posited that the country still has a long way to go.
“While 50 per cent vaccination of our adult population is quite an accomplishment, there is still a large number of adult Guyanese who are yet to be vaccinated and there is no good reason why they are not being vaccinated or they are refusing to take the vaccines,” he said.
TAKE THE VACCINE
During his visit to the Rosignol Secondary School and Blairmont Primary School, Region Five, Nandlall appealed to teachers and parents to get vaccinated in anticipation of the reopening of schools, which he explained the government is hopeful may be possible for the New Year.
“We are hoping to have all of our public schools reopen for the New Year, all things being equal, but we need our teachers to get vaccinated. All of you need to be vaccinated. [It] is the only thing available to help you to battle that fatal and deadly virus,” he said.
“I implore you teachers; you have to lead by example; you are our leaders; our children look to you for emulation, for guidance, and for inspiration. To the parents, I say, I know most of you have been vaccinated, but please, those who have not been we need to get you vaccinated,” he added.
The Attorney-General expressed that Guyana is fortunate to have an abundance of vaccines that are readily available, free of cost. He urged that persons take full advantage of the opportunity to protect themselves so that the country can return to normalcy, especially the school system.
“It costs the government in just providing worksheets alone nearly US$400,000 per month. When we have to do these online programmes, and provide worksheets and distribute them across the country it costs a lot of money to keep the children in school, while the schools are closed,” he explained.
The Attorney-General explained that the legal view, based on precedents and a comprehensive analysis of the situation, suggests that mandatory vaccination is not a violation of one’s guaranteed constitutional rights.
“If the government was to impose a mandatory obligation on citizens to take the vaccines the government will not be violating the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens, that is the prevailing view of academics across the region,” the Attorney-General said.
Nandlall cited that Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, wrote extensively on the topic in various publications where she established detailed arguments supported by legal authorities in support of mandatory vaccinations.
Additionally, the Attorney-General noted that there is a case which was decided at the level of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which is in alignment of the view that mandatory vaccination is not unconstitutional.
“Public policy is an important component of the legal framework of any country and laws of any country will always be influenced by public policy considerations,” Nandlall said as he explained that in the interest of public policy, a greater number of vaccines should be administered, a logic the law will follow.
Nandlall opined that in the near future, governments will impose restrictions which mandate that prior to accessing certain services, persons must be vaccinated. He referenced the current travel restrictions which are imposed worldwide, which prevent unvaccinated persons to enter certain countries.
“That will extend throughout the Caribbean, not only to aircrafts but to public buildings. Leaders in the Caribbean have already voiced their opinions on this matter and they have indicated that they will be moving in that direction unless there is some drastic change in the circumstances,” he said. The Attorney-General expressed that Guyana needs to be fully reopened to function at its pinnacle, children need to get back into schools and that would not be possible unless more people receive their vaccines.