FROM TIME TO time, governments must take hard decisions in the interest of the public. Making COVID19 vaccination mandatory for certain categories of employees is one such decision that governments all over the world have been having to make in recent weeks.
Few would argue that what started as a public health crisis is now also manifesting itself as economic, social and psychological crises for many people.
Undoubtedly, if leaders could find less divisive and invasive ways than vaccination to protect their people and economies, they certainly would. But the fact is, vaccination is the only option available right now to save lives, jobs and restore our economies, and most leaders acknowledge this.
This is why it is deeply disappointing to see leaders of opposition political parties and trade unions, who themselves have been vaccinated and say they agree that vaccination is the way out of this crisis, opposing efforts by governments to do what they themselves know to be right.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines, the job losses we have experienced over the past 18 months have completely wiped out any job gains we have made in previous decades. People are hurting, angry and at their most vulnerable, and this is understandable. But their anger may be misdirected and sensible leadership could help to make things better. Trade unions have a duty to be champions of vaccinations in order to save their members’ livelihoods. The Opposition should be working with the Government to get the vaccination numbers up because their supporters are also suffering, and should the government change tomorrow, this problem would be theirs to deal with. Failing to employ the most effective tool in the kit to deal with COVID19 would be reckless on the part of our leaders.
Yesterday, the public sector unions, the opposition New Democratic Party and Rise Hairouna staged a protest in Kingstown, to draw attention they say, to their dissatisfaction with an amendment to the Public Health Act, which they say violates fundamental rights and freedoms by making vaccination or regular testing for COVID19 a requirement for certain groups of workers.
We support and encourage protests as an important part of a healthy democracy, but do not understand the justification for yesterday’s exercise, particularly because what the Government has enacted is necessary and justified, does not violate the Constitution, nor does it fall outside international norms for dealing with this crisis.
The unions have signalled that their next move will be to take the Government to court to challenge the new requirements. This should have been their first move were they sufficiently aggrieved, rather than calling out their members and potentially exposing them to possible COVID19 infection at a time when new variants have been detected here and our numbers are rising rapidly. Let us act more cohesively and sensibly in this fight.