Mandatory COVID-19 jabs for specific groups are being discussed by the ministerial advisory committee on vaccines, says its chair, Prof Barry Schoub, reports Sunday Times. However, National Health Department spokesperson Popo Maja says “compulsory vaccination is not on the table for discussion”.
Wits University vaccinology expert Professor Shabir Madhi said he is not usually a “fan of mandatory vaccination” but COVID-19 makes it necessary. “There is a compelling case from a public health perspective to make vaccination mandatory, especially for individuals with a high level of engagement with others in closed settings,” he said. “In these settings, if people choose not to be vaccinated, they should be compelled to undergo testing every three or four days at their own expense.”
Professor Keymanthri Moodley, director of the Centre for Medical Ethics and Law at Stellenbosch University, said: “All high-risk environments, occupations and communal activities should have a mandatory vaccine policy. This is based on the common good and public interest.”
Professor Wolfgang Preiser, a virologist at Stellenbosch University, said: “Not getting vaccinated is not really just a question of personal choice unless one agrees to not endanger others and to not demand medical care.”
Dr Nicholas Crisp, Deputy Director-General in the Health department, said the notion of vaccine “passports” is a “vexed issue” that has both benefits and challenges. It could bring us closer to getting back to “normal life”, but could also be a “possible infringement of civil rights and privacy”. “It is not an easy decision and that is not to say that at some point it won’t become viable or implemented, but it is still evolving.”
Gabriel Crouse of the Institute for Race Relations warned that “attempts at coercion” could “backfire by incentivising anti-authoritarians to resist vaccination”. He said since “herd immunity is a pipe dream”, people get vaccinated to save themselves, not to save the world, so “you are more likely to convince most people to vaccinate if you use that argument”.
Tian Johnson, founder of the African Alliance for HIV Prevention and convener of the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group, worries that in the context of poor communication on vaccines, mandatory policies could fall flat. “If mandatory vaccination for certain sectors identified as a result of clear data is to be supported, a significant risk is our current inability to communicate effectively about the pandemic, let alone those mandatory measures,” said Johnson.
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