TCI: Is Discriminatory Covid-19 Vaccination Incentives A Violation Of The Constitution?

#TurksandCaicos, April 29, 2021 – Turks and Caicos ramps up the vaccination drive as some people term it ‘discriminatory.’ When speaking in a radio-hosted event on 20th April 2021, Hon. Charles Misick revealed that more than 45 per cent of the total number of people countrywide had received a full dose of vaccine. 

However, a lot of pressure is exerted on those not yet vaccinated as the government offers discriminative incentives to those already vaccinated. Such incentives include priority services in public offices, more restaurants with fully vaccinated staff, more passengers for vaccinated drivers, and pressure crafts.  

While such incentives are geared towards boosting the numbers getting vaccinated, the subject has elicited a flurry of debates on whether the move to use vaccination certificated to enjoy priority services violates constitutional rights of those yet to be vaccinated due to one reason such as religion, anxiety, and historical misuse of vaccines. 

During the Virtual ‘Norman Marley Lecture 2021’ organized by the Norman Law School in Jamaica, Various experts discussed the balance between the constitution, human rights, and covid-19 vaccine in-depth and breadth. 

According to Hon. Dr. Lloyd Barnett. O.J, a legal expert with decades of experience, every person has a constitutional right to reject anything with a perceived threat to their body and well-being.  Therefore, the government should not impose compulsive regulations that are away compromising someone’s right since it is unconstitutional. Instead, one should be allowed to take part deliberately. 

“The demand for swift and extensive intervention by Governments is very great.  But on the other hand,  the invasion of a person’s body is a very far reaching act and could only be constitutionally valid if it is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” said Dr. Barnett, as he toiled with the question.

The litmus test on the justification of these discriminative measures, explained the attorney is whether the practice has been widely adopted and practiced.

“One of the tests that we would have to apply is whether in free and democratic society, this is a strategy which has been adopted.  And as far as I know, this has not been the practice in free and democratic societies,” was his perspective on April 7, when the virtual discussion was held. 

However, in some circumstances, such as during the ongoing public health emergency when the government is charged with keeping its people safe, the discriminatory vaccination incentives are constitutionally justifiable in the view of public protection against the deadly virus. 

The barrister, argued that such compulsive regulations are also constitutionally justified when the government gives a directive for inoculations of 100 per cent of its population to stop the rapid spread of the virus across populations.  However, he did not desert the important of the value to protect the human right of individuals.

“In the examination of this question, a lot of factors would have to be taken into account, what is the basis of the objection.  AS we know, some persons object on religious grounds, some persons object because psychologically, they can’t tolerate the imposition of needles in their body.  Other persons object because of the historic misuse of vaccinations especially in relation to poor and black persons in the past.  So there are reasons; some emotional and some quite rational which might motivate someone not to wish to be vaccinated and all of that would have to be taken into account in regard to an imposition of the compulsory regulation,” said the Hon. Dr. Barnett.

In conclusion, it was offered that the mandatory regulation for inoculation is an infringement of the right, therefore, said Dr. Barnett, the burden falls on the government to prove that a mandatory regulation related to the Covid-19 vaccine is justified.

The lecture topic was Balancing Human & Constitutional Rights and the Covid-19 Vaccine; it was carried live on YouTube, earlier this month.

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