Are COVID-19 vaccine mandates human rights abuses?

  • Probably not, experts say, because everyone has the fundamental right to be protected from the spread of disease.
  • Still, tensions have risen as more vaccination mandates are implemented.
  • A protest in Canada has drawn renewed attention to the issue.

The article “Does the COVID-19 vaccine impose human rights violations?” was first published on August 24, 2021 and updated on January 31, 2022.

Even Napoleon could not force everyone to get vaccinated.

The French strongman managed to bend most of Europe to his will, but when it came to smallpox, he could only encourage his compatriots to get vaccinated against the deadly disease as a civic duty.

In some ways, not much has changed. Governments and private sector employers around the world have encouraged those lucky enough to have access to COVID-19 vaccines to take them – often with Napoleonic-like civic incentives, but increasingly through targeted vaccination mandates.

These measures contribute to the safety of people. But they also struck a chord.

In Canada, thousands of people gathered in Ottawa last weekend to protest against government mandates for the COVID-19 vaccine, spontaneously building on what began as a narrower demonstration organized by truckers.

The rally in Canada was only the most recent commotion. After the French government sought to make vaccination virtually inevitable with rules and mandates, a nationwide protest drew nearly 240,000 people. Parents in South Korea protested vaccination mandates in schools and around 16,000 people traveled to Hamburg earlier this month to protest vaccination rules.

Protests against private sector mandates have also sprung up, although companies like Google and Citigroup have strongly demanded that employees get bitten before coming into the office.

Some argue that COVID-19 vaccination mandates are human rights abuses. Not really, say experts on actual human rights abuses.

In fact, some point to everyone’s more basic right to be protected from COVID-19 – especially as the variants continue to have a disproportionate impact on the unvaccinated.

Image: World Economic Forum

Vaccine mandates in the past

In the middle of the 19and century, the British government made vaccination against smallpox compulsory. Local anti-vaccination leagues have been formed in response, brandishing the same hesitancy and uneven understanding of science that is reproduced among anti-vaccination activists today. In many ways, there’s not much new.

Yet some things about vaccine mandates seem to have changed over the past few decades.

When a successful polio vaccine candidate was announced in 1953, it made its developer a minor celebrity; parents quickly sought him for their children without the need for coercion. Seven years later, Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” was awarded to “American Scientists.”

But then science got mixed up with the Cold War and government secrecy. Laboratories were bombed, a superfluous and flawed swine flu vaccination effort left dozens with a rare neurological disorder, and Soviet misinformation about the origin of AIDS – an epidemic that claimed hundreds of thousands of deaths last year – has spread around the world. Seeds of doubt have been sown everywhere.

So, COVID-19 vaccination mandates can certainly seem like an attractive option to help stem the spread of the disease, as long as everyone affected has equal access (and credible exemptions are possible).

But perhaps a more fundamental effort is needed to restore trust in science – potentially rendering warrants useless.

Learn more about vaccination mandates

For more context, here are links to other readings from the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence Platform:

  • Incentives for taking COVID-19 vaccines in India, such as subsidized property taxes and discounted restaurant meals, have shown promise, according to this article. (The conversation)
  • “Nobody wants to feel ashamed or belittled for doing nothing.” Programs in rural America that traditionally helped farmers are now educating the public about COVID-19 vaccines, according to this article, and a big part of the job is to listen. (Kaiser Health News)
  • Large crowds gathered to protest against COVID-19 vaccination mandates suggest hesitation may be more common in Europe than the survey results suggest, according to this article – which traces some of the anti-vaccination history of the region. (Montaigne Institute)
  • Vaccination rates among pregnant women have lagged, but this survey of more than 17,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women who received COVID-19 vaccines showed they had not experienced symptoms more severe than their non-pregnant counterparts. (Daily Science)
  • “Everyone I know is pissed off.” Vaccinated Americans have long lost patience with their unvaccinated compatriots, according to this article. (Atlantic)
  • How vaccination mandates help companies: According to this analysis, this is a measure that companies can take to “internalize the externality” imposed by the unvaccinated outside their walls and control the spread of the virus. ([email protected])
  • According to this study, people infected a long time ago with SARS generated particularly potent antibody responses when vaccinated against COVID-19, raising hope that vaccines can be developed to fully protect against new variants. of coronavirus. (Nature)

On the strategic intelligence platform, you can find feeds of expert analysis related to immunization, human rights, and hundreds of additional topics. You will need to register to view.

Image: World Economic Forum

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