The Authority of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS Heads of Governments), convened a special meeting on Wednesday, 11th August, 2021 to initiate discussion on the possible establishment of an OECS policy framework on vaccine confidence.
The meeting was chaired by The Rt. Hon. Dr. Keith Mitchell, Chairman; and attended by Heads of Governments of Member States and their delegations; with representatives of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) also in attendance.
The OECS Heads of Governments received legal advice from a high-level panel comprising former President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Sir Denis Byron, Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of the West Indies, Professor Rose-Marie Belle-Antoine and OECS General Counsel, Mr. Dwight Lay.
Having examined several different approaches, the high-level panel of legal luminaries provided recommendations on legal and pragmatic options for OECS Governments as they seek to balance the public health interest of all countries with any rights of individuals.
In fact, the advice received is that there is no constitutional bar for employers, including government, to require that particular job or jobs generally be done by persons who are vaccinated against COVID-19, especially so during the period of a pandemic or a public health emergency.
The OECS Heads of Governments also received from Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director of CARPHA, an update on the dangers posed by the new Delta variant, as well as recommendations on the measures proposed by CARPHA to safeguard public health in the face of this greater threat.
Emanating from the extensive discussion, the high-level legal panel will prepare a formal report to OECS Governments, representative of the discussion points and making recommendations on an OECS framework of action.
Individual governments will then have to formalise their respective positions which is expected to be determined after in-country consultations. While the intention is to agree on a united position on vaccination, one that symbolises the harmonisation of a regional approach, the sovereignty of countries in this matter cannot be overlooked.
Chairman of the OECS Authority, Prime Minister of Grenada, The Rt. Hon. Dr. Keith Mitchell, thanked the distinguished luminaries for their enlightening presentation and recommendations on the topic. He shared with colleague heads the three critical factors Grenada has consistently considered as part of the decision-making process on matters pertaining to the pandemic, these being health as the number one priority, along with social and economic considerations.