MAILBOX: Why Covid-19 vaccination should not be made mandatory

Mandatory Covid-19 vaccination is rapidly becoming the latest hotly debated subject, with many individuals and organisations weighing in to voice their concerns on the matter. The US Food and Drug Administration issued the first full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine today – a development which may spur organisations to impose mandatory vaccination. This article by BizNews community member David Matthews outlines the reasons that Covid-19 vaccination should not be made mandatory. The fundamental argument that Matthews puts forth against mandatory vaccination is that ‘the overriding of South African’s constitutional human rights would set a highly dangerous political precedent.’ Matthews further states that; ‘If a constitutionally-protected right can be overridden for so small a mortal threat to public health as COVID-19 presents, then it can be overridden for virtually any public health threat. Or for virtually any so-called ‘public threat’, for that matter.’ An insightful and though-provoking piece. – Nadya Swart

By David Matthews

If vaccines are made mandatory in South Africa, it is likely to be because this is, for one or more reasons, deemed by the state to be necessary and desirable on public health grounds. A government declaration to this effect would presumably be made in recognition of the fact that the individual in South African society is guaranteed certain constitutional rights, some of which mandatory vaccination will necessarily violate. Particularly, these are the rights to bodily integrity and to be free of all forms of violence from either private or public sources. 

While it is doubtful that vaccinations will be made mandatory, given the facts that the mortality rate for Covid-19 is so very low, while no mandatory treatment for tuberculosis (which kills an average of 63,000 South Africans each year) has ever been mandated, the potential cost to individual freedom and democracy that such an act would facilitate is enormous.

The human rights enshrined in and protected by the Constitution are there for a very good reason. They are the minimum protection, identified by democracy’s 18th century founders, that the individual human being requires against domination by the state (or by other individuals) in order for genuine democratic government to survive. It is the strict implementation of these specific rights that protect the mass of people who constitute society – the demos that gives us democracy – from the abuse and exploitation by dictators, kings, political ideologies, oligarchs, theocrats and thieves that they have suffered historically. 

While mandatory vaccination for COVID-19 might be desirable on public health grounds in the opinion of some health specialists, the overriding of South African’s constitutional human rights would set a highly dangerous political precedent. If a constitutionally-protected right can be overridden for so small a mortal threat to public health as COVID-19 presents, then it can be overridden for virtually any public health threat. Or for virtually any so-called ‘public threat’, for that matter.

The best protection that society as a whole has ever received is that of the concept of inviolable and constitutionally-enshrined individual human rights. To put society’s greatest protection at risk for the small and largely unquantifiable benefit of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination is an extraordinarily short-sighted and bad suggestion.

Read also:

(Visited 1,224 times, 52 visits today)