The debate about compulsory vaccination rages on with Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda making it mandatory that all public servants be vaccinated or that they be subject to testing twice a month. The prime minister’s recent declaration in the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda has met with mixed responses: decisive, strong, dictatorial, insensitive, and crazy.
In announcing his government’s mandatory vaccination policy for public servants, he demonstrated a level of frustration and desperation. A frustration that Antiguans were not taking the vaccine and a desperation in finding an early solution to the debilitating impact Covid-19 was having on the health system and economy of Antigua.
But is it morally right that governments should be legally forcing vaccination when some citizens are genuinely unsure and worried about the effects of vaccination on their health? Would it not be a better approach to address the concerns of vaccine hesitant citizens through a process of education?
Democratic governments are supposed to serve the will of the majority and not impose the will of the minority on the majority. With the low uptake of vaccination, it suggests that the position of the majority is clear: they are not willing. The scientific data, however, indicates unambiguously that those who are vaccinated are significantly less likely to be hospitalized or die of Covid. So, what do we do?
Dr. Bruce Lipton, a well-known cellular biologist, made an interesting observation that it was not the virulence of the Corona virus that is the problem but the weakness of the patient. By this he meant, if the patient’s immune system is already compromised by comorbidity factors, then the virus is more likely to take them down, and the more comorbidity factors the more vulnerable the covid infected person. He identified obesity, high-blood pressure and diabetes as common comorbidity factors, all common to Saint Lucia.
Could it, therefore, be enough for a citizen to receive a clean bill of health from a physician every, say, six months to avoid vaccination? And for those with comorbidity factors and not willing to vaccinate, that they be restricted access to enclosed public places and made to undergo frequent testing at their cost.
There is something unsettling about mandating by law that people be vaccinated. While this pandemic is a public health issue, we must be mindful of individual rights in the process of finding solutions. A one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer if individual human rights are to be respected. The process of educating the public on vaccination should, therefore, continue and hopefully, more people will make that personal decision to vaccinate. Let us hope the Saint Lucian government has not reached the point of frustration and desperation and follows the path of mandatory vaccination, taken by the Antiguan government.