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News Article

Should Countries Make COVID-19 Vaccines Mandatory?

By Miriam Bello | Mon, 08/09/2021 - 15:04

Some countries are seeking to made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory either for all their population or at-risk groups after the spread of the Delta variant. While the measure aims to protect public health, some question whether it violates human rights.

Some countries have made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for specific groups, commonly high-risk people, healthcare workers, care home workers, night clubs or venue workers and attendees, government members, tourists and restaurant attendees. Other countries are making the vaccines mandatory for their entire population. Indonesia, for example, has made the vaccine mandatory for all eligible citizens and as has even threaten to stop or delay social assistance programs and administrative services as well as impose fines to the unvaccinated, according to its government.

Many are questioning if this action violates human rights, especially with the rise of vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccine groups. In Mexico, indigenous communities doubt both federal vaccination campaigns and the virus itself. Indigenous communities in the southwest of Mexico have a long history of resistance to central authorities, which culminated in the Zapatista uprising of 1994. These groups think that "the government does not consult the people on how they want to be helped," according to an article by the BBC. "Most [of these groups] do not believe that COVID-19 exists." The BBC also found that people in remote communities living “traditional lifestyles” believe themselves to be protected.

Mexico’s northern neighbor is also dealing with strong vaccine hesitancy, which is setting back its campaigns to protect most of its population. The NYT found that while nearly half of US adults had gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, those who had not gotten the jab were more likely to say they would wait a year or longer (25 percent) than to say they would it within a few weeks of it being available (19 percent).

The Global Campus of Human Rights (GCHR) explains that “mandatory vaccination interferes with personal integrity but may be necessary to safeguard public health. However, states must consider all relevant factors in context and ensure such policies do not place disproportionate burdens on those hesitant about vaccination.”

The GCHR also states that many are ineligible for a vaccine, such as people with allergies, children under 12 of people with compromised immune systems. Thus, mandatory vaccines should avoid discriminating those for whom getting a vaccine could be dangerous. Therefore, GCHR says that “vaccination strategies are only lawful if proportionate. Any policy must not excessively burden those affected and benefits must compensate for any harms caused all things considered.” The latter must come hand on hand with the understanding that educational campaigns must come as a priority to reach minorities, marginalized and ethnic groups so everyone has an informed vaccination choice.

Photo by:   Mat Napo on Unsplash
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst