Sep 16, 2021 Letters
Permit response to two letters in your newspapers, written by Mike Persaud and Dr. Jerry Jailall (SN: 13th Sept, and KN 12th Sept 2021 respectively).
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), which have a case before the High Court on the Government’s vaccination mandate is not opposed to persons, who are eligible for and desire to take the vaccine, from doing so. The named bodies are repeatedly on record stating this.
It is our belief the President is operating outside of his legal remit on this matter and also the Occupational Safety and Health Act, amongst other laws, are being violated in the execution of the vaccination programme. Our concerns have been placed before the court for adjudication, which is a constitutional right we exercise.
The GTUC, GPSU, and GTU’s case is being represented by able Attorneys-at-law Darren Wade and Dane Victor Elliot-Hamilton, neither of whom has been asking teachers, or whomever, to remain “unvaccinated.” It is a wicked and gross deception on the part of those who seek to peddle such falsification.
To those who are using United States (U.S.) President Joe Biden’s policy on vaccination, urging a replication here, the policy cannot be cherry-picked for convenience purposes. Biden’s policy operates in an environment where: –
1. The mandating of vaccines for certain categories of workers and employers in the U.S is accompanied by the mandating of testing.
2. COVID-19 testing in the U.S. is free.
3. All the vaccines used in the U.S. are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
4. The Biden administration has been engaging stakeholders; scientific institutions are allowed to do their work independently; and transparency and accountability in the system are present.
5. Employers are being mandated to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated or recover from any side effects of getting vaccinated, and should they fail to comply, they can face fines of up to US$14,000 per violation.
There is no such approach in Guyana and society is being done a grave disservice with efforts to cherry-pick and deceive. Further, said policy of Biden has also attracted criticism and is expected to face legal actions. It is of importance to note where the right to alternative view and judicial recourse is respected in the U.S.; there is an attempt to deny the same here using deception.
GTUC wants COVID-19 preventative measures, such as proper hand-washing, social distancing, small crowds and masking to be observed. These rules must be enforced across the board, not selectively as is happening. We continue to urge citizens/workers to comply with COVID-19 protocols. GTUC is not against persons taking the World Health Organization (WHO) approved vaccines, and is encouraging those who can and want to take these vaccines to do so. GTUC is against the use of the Sputnik V vaccine, which has not been approved for use by the WHO. Guyana does not have the capacity to determine the efficacy and effectiveness of any COVID-19 vaccine and relies on the WHO’s guidance.
In an April 2021 WHO’s Policy Brief, which addressed the issue of ‘COVID-19 and mandatory vaccination,’ in the Conclusions of that Brief, it was stated:
“Vaccines are effective for protecting people from COVID-19. Governments and/or institutional policymakers should use arguments to encourage voluntary vaccination against COVID-19, before contemplating mandatory vaccination. Efforts should be made to demonstrate the benefit and safety of vaccines for the greatest possible acceptance of vaccination. Stricter regulatory measures should be considered only if these means are not successful. A number of ethical considerations and caveats should be explicitly discussed and addressed through ethical analysis when considering whether mandatory COVID-19 vaccination is an ethically justifiable policy option. Similar to other public health policies, decisions about mandatory vaccination should be supported by the best available evidence and should be made by legitimate public health authorities in a manner that is transparent, fair, non-discriminatory, and involves the input of affected parties.”
The Government of Guyana has neither sought to nor implemented any of the WHO’s advisories/recommendations before moving to the vaccination mandate. Neither, in our opinion, has the administration complied with the local laws and respect the rights of citizens/workers. The GTUC, once again, urges an inclusionary approach in managing the pandemic, and to let the science, laws, international best practices and appropriate resources guide decision-making in Guyana.
The GTUC is calling on the nation, moreso the Government and Opposition, to deliver leadership in giving meaning to Article 13 and Article 149 (C) in the Constitution of Guyana, the Public Health laws, Occupational Safety and Health Act, among others, in the fight against the deadly virus, which continues to show it does not discriminate against persons or groups. Good sense must prevail.
General Secretary, GTUC
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