Opposition Leader Godwin Friday, on Tuesday, stated his opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but encouraged people to take the jab.
His comments come as Parliament is expected to amend two pieces of legislation passed earlier this year in response to the pandemic.
The Medical Officers (Amendment) Bill 2021 and the Public Health (Amendment) Bill, both tabled by Minister of Health St. Clair Prince, are slated to have their first reading in the national assembly on Thursday.
Photographs circulated on social media purporting to show the intended amendment, claim that it will delete “a voluntary” and, in its place, insert “an” in the following section of the law:
“(2) Where the Minster has declared a public health emergency, the minister, on advice of the Chief Medical Officer, May implement special measure to mitigate or remedy the emergency including –
“(a) Establishing a voluntary immunization programme for St. Vincent and the Grenadines or any part of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines;”
Speaking at a virtual public meeting of his New Democratic Party, Friday, who took the jab a few months ago, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is the “biggest problem that we have now”.
He, however, said that the government, “quite frankly, has made a mess of it.
“They were talking out of both sides of their mouths. Behaving, on the one hand, as if it’s something to fear, and then, on the other, they want to force people to take a vaccine,” the opposition leader told media audiences.
“I am for vaccination but not for compulsory vaccination. As Keith Mitchell said, I not for that. But we have to encourage our people to do what they must, that is, to inform themselves and to take the recommendations of these persons who have the knowledge and the information and make the right decision. And I believe that is to be vaccinated,” Friday said.
“But Ralph and the ULP, they have talked all around this issue and now they are in a situation where they want to force people. And that will only create a worse situation, as there will be a backlash. So we have to find a way forward in this terrible situation that we have found ourselves in and I know that our good people will look at it seriously and do what is right for themselves and for our nation,” the opposition leader said.