They should be ‘a last resort’
One child reacts after receiving the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This was at Smoketown Family Wellness Center (Louisville, Kentucky), U.S.A. November 8, 2021.
Jon Cherry | Reuters
LONDON — Covid-19 vaccine mandates continue to be a divisive topic of debate, and the subject remains as salient as ever while the world grapples not only with the delta variant but concerns over the spread of omicron, a mutation of the virus whose risk profile remains largely unknown.
As some countries struggle to encourage a voluntary take-up of vaccines — which are proven to greatly reduce the risk of severe infection, hospitalization and death from the virus — some governments are considering, or have already stated, that they will introduce compulsory vaccinations.
Experts agree that there are many ethical concerns to address regarding vaccine mandates. However, some countries seem to have moved on from these issues in favour of the general benefit that vaccination provides.
On Tuesday, Dr. Hans Kluge (WHO’s Europe Director) addressed the controversy and cautioned that mandatory vaccinations are a last resort.
Kluge stated that mandates regarding vaccination should be used only as a last resort and are not applicable if all options for improving vaccination coverage have failed. He stated at a press conference that they should not be carried out “if one does not reach out to all the relevant communities.”
Kluge stated that mandates “have been effective in certain environments to increase vaccination uptake,” but noted, however, that “the effectiveness and context of vaccine mandates are very individual.” It is important to consider the impact that mandating vaccinations may have on trust and confidence, and vaccine uptake.
He reminded us that the same things in one community or society may not work in another.
“Mandates shouldn’t contribute to social inequalities regarding access to social and health services. “Any measure that restricts a right or movement of someone, like lockdowns and mandates needs to ensure mental health care is provided for,” he stated.
Is there a way to get rid of the virus?
For a long period, the issue of obligatory vaccinations in Europe was controversial. However, vaccine skeptical levels differ widely between countries. However, the Covid situation has made it a hot topic. Officials believe that mandating vaccines will be the only way to prevent the spread of the virus.
Covid vaccines reduce severe infections, hospitalizations, and even death by the virus. However, we know that vaccine immunity wanes after six months, and they don’t always prevent transmission.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said last week that it was time to “think about mandatory vaccination” in the EU, in which individual states can impose vaccine mandates. The remarks were made at a time when vaccination rates in some members are still low, while many countries have been dealing with an increase in Covid cases.
Some EU members have taken the initiative to make vaccines mandatory. Austria announced that it would introduce mandatory shots in the next year. Greece, however, stated it will penalize anyone over 60 who isn’t vaccinated. To avoid the penalty, those over 60 must have received their first dose of coronavirus vaccine by January 16.
Germany’s outgoing government had also proposed the possibility of mandatory vaccines — although the incoming new coalition said Tuesday that mandatory vaccination would be discussed, but nothing had been decided upon.
Indonesia made Covid vaccinations compulsory for its citizens earlier this year with Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia (introducing compulsory shots for anyone wishing to enter a workplace) and the small island state of Micronesia all introducing similar measures.
Some countries and states have also made or are making compulsory the administration of Covid vaccines to certain sectors of their workforce. This includes public sector workers, as well as health care personnel. A variety of US companies has stated that Covid vaccinations must be provided to their employees, leading to protests from the staff.
People who don’t want the Covid vaccine and are strongly opposed to compulsory vaccinations say their rights to travel and socialize have been restricted by the increasing number of places, venues, and jobs available only to those who have been vaccinated.
On November 20, 2021 at Maria Theresien Platz, Vienna, Austria, demonstrators lit a smokebomb during an Austrian far-right Freedom Party FPOe rally against measures to stop the Covid pandemic.
JOE KLAMAR | AFP | Getty Images
Passports called “Covid passes” or so-called Covid passes, which restrict public access, are only available to those who have recently been vaccinated, are recovering from an injury, and/or have a negative Covid Test. Although they can be relied on to maintain open access for leisure and business activities, critics claim that they discriminate against those who have not been vaccinated.
Europe was rocked by protests in NovemberFollowing a spike in Covid infection, thousands protested against the introduction of Covid passes to Brussels, Vienna and Rome.