By Kadeem Joseph
There has been widespread debate across the globe concerning the prospect of governments making Covid-19 vaccines mandatory, a discussion that has not spared Antigua and Barbuda.
To date, while the government has not yet made any such mandate, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said that his administration would head in this direction if the step becomes necessary to achieve herd immunity.
While there has been no national vaccine mandate, the Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association has said that people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 will not be considered if they apply for employment at some hotels.
Noted Grenadian attorney Ruggles Ferguson, who was speaking on Bar Talk on Sunday evening, explained that while the fundamental rights of an Antiguan and Barbudan citizen is enshrined in the Constitution, the same document indicates the circumstances under which these rights can “limit” one’s rights.
“The particular circumstances are in the interest of public health, public safety, public order, public morality and defence,” he said further.
The attorney said in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, a law mandating vaccinations that may be deemed as a contravention of human rights will fall under the categories of public safety and public health for possible exemption.
Ferguson further explained that should the parliament pass a law to this end, and individuals believe that it contravenes their rights, the matter can be challenged in court.
He said it would then be up to the court to conduct a “proportionality test” to investigate whether a measure goes too far to achieve the desired effect.
“This will determine whether or not it is justifiable to interfere with your individual rights of personal privacy, religious freedom or conscientious objection in the wider interest,” he said further.
“Because what the constitution also says, basically, is that your individual rights and freedoms is subject to the rights and freedoms of others.”
The attorney said if the court deems the law extreme, it may strike it out altogether, or appropriately limit such a legislation.