Archbishop of the West Indies urges Jamaican govt to mandate COVID vaccinations for all

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The Archbishop of the West Indies, The Most Rev. Howard Gregory, is urging the Government of Jamaica to embrace mandatory vaccination against the COVID-19 virus, in the national interest, as has been done in other jurisdictions.

Archbishop Gregory’s call in an article titled “Leadership and the Pursuit of the Common Good,” comes against the background of continued vaccine hesitancy, the high COVID-19 infection and death rate in the country, and disclosure of the prospect of dumping vaccines because of the expiration of their recommended life.

“These are not normal times when every individual can choose to play by their own rules while untold suffering and loss of lives, wellbeing, the ability to conduct one’s daily life, and the return to vibrancy in the economy are at stake. We are in a critical time which requires unusual action; and the good of the whole must count at some point,” the Archbishop noted.

“It seems clear that the government, through the leadership, must do what leaders do in times of a crisis and take decisive action,” he asserted.

Archbishop Gregory, who is also Bishop of Jamaica & The Cayman Islands, argued that while there are divergent views related to human rights and the law with regard to mandatory vaccines, there are sufficient legal luminaries who have pointed to the appropriateness of such action.

He acknowledged the national political culture in which people distrust government and its leadership, but also pointed to governance/leadership which “keeps its eyes constantly on the next elections and how people may perceive its actions, and especially how the Opposition may then play its cards.”

Responsibility to Citizens  

The Archbishop contended that while mandatory vaccination does not involve physically restraining persons, the government has a responsibility to protect citizens from infection by requiring proof of vaccination from public sector workers, as well as their customers.

Likewise, he said employers in various sectors should also have the discretion to determine the working environment they wish to promote for the well-being of their staff and the public they serve.

The Archbishop described as “reprehensible” the requirement for employees in some areas of the hospitality industry to be immunized, while there was no similar provision for the wider society. He also criticized Jamaicans who indicated they would take the vaccine if and when this was required for them to travel to the United States.

“It is time we assert a greater sense of self-respect and dignity in doing what we know is right and in the public good, rather than await an external agency to enforce what we should do under appropriate national leadership for ourselves,” he declared.

Archbishop Gregory, who is fully vaccinated and has subsequently taken several PCR and Antigen Tests, repeated a previous appeal for all Jamaicans and Christians, in particular, to take the vaccine as an expression of their duty to care for themselves and their responsibility to their brothers and sisters in Christ.

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