A child responds by receiving a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the Smoketown Family Wellness Center in Louisville, Kentucky, the United States, on November 8, 2021.
Jon Cherry | Reuters
LONDON – The Covid-19 vaccine mandates continue to be a divisive topic of debate, and the topic remains as salient as ever as the world grapples not only with the delta variant but also with concerns over the spread of omicron, a mutation of the virus whose risk profile remains largely unknown.
As some countries struggle to encourage voluntary adoption of vaccines – which have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of serious infection, hospitalization and death from the virus – some governments are considering, or have already said, that they will introduce compulsory vaccinations.
Experts say there are a number of ethical issues to consider regarding immunization mandates, but some countries have cast aside concerns in favor of the overall benefit of immunization.
WHO director for Europe Dr Hans Kluge weighed in on the thorny debate on Tuesday, warning that mandatory vaccinations should be a last resort.
“The mandates around immunization are an absolute last resort, and only apply when all other possible options to improve immunization have been exhausted,” Kluge said. They should not be done “if we have not contacted the communities concerned first,” he said during a press briefing.
The warrants “have been shown to be effective in some environments in increasing vaccine uptake,” Kluge said, but added that “the effectiveness of vaccine warrants is very context specific. The effect of mandatory vaccines could have on the public confidence and public confidence, as well as on the use of vaccination, must be taken into account. “
He warned that what is acceptable in one society or community may not be in another.
“Ultimately, mandates should never contribute to increasing social inequalities in access to health and social services. Any measure that could restrict a person’s right or movement, such as confinements or warrants, must ensure that mental health and well-being are taken care of. for, ”he said.
The only way to stop the virus?
The idea of mandatory vaccinations has been controversial in Europe for a long time, and levels of vaccine skepticism differ greatly from country to country. But the current Covid landscape has made the debate more and more prevalent, and some officials believe requiring vaccines is the only way to stop the virus.
Covid vaccines significantly reduce the risk of serious infection, hospitalization and death from the virus, but we also know that vaccine immunity wanes after about six months and that they are not 100% effective in reducing the virus. transmission.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said last week it was time to “think about compulsory vaccination” in the EU, in which individual states can impose vaccination mandates. The comments have been made as vaccination rates in some member states remain slow and many countries face a winter wave of Covid cases.
Some EU member states have already decided to apply the vaccines. Austria has said it will introduce mandatory vaccines next year, while Greece has said it will fine anyone aged 60 or over by 100 euros ($ 114) per month if they do not. was not getting vaccinated. People over 60 must have received a first dose of coronavirus by January 16 to avoid the fine.
The outgoing German government had also proposed the possibility of compulsory vaccines – although the new incoming coalition said on Tuesday that compulsory vaccination would be discussed, but nothing had been decided.
Indonesia made Covid vaccinations mandatory for its citizens earlier this year with Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia (introducing mandatory vaccines for anyone wishing to enter the workplace) and the small island state of Micronesia all introducing similar measures.
In the meantime, other countries or states have made (or are making) Covid vaccines mandatory for certain sectors of the workforce, such as public sector workers and, in particular, healthcare workers. In the United States, many companies have said their workers must also be vaccinated against Covid, often prompting protests from staff.
Many people who do not wish to be vaccinated against Covid and vehemently oppose mandatory vaccinations, say their freedom to travel, socialize and work is increasingly restricted as the number of public spaces increases. , places of recreation and employment are accessible only by the vaccinee growing up.
A protester lights a smoke bomb during a rally organized by the Austrian far-right party FPOe against measures taken to curb the Covid pandemic, in Maria Theresien Platz square in Vienna, Austria, on November 20, 2021.
JOE KLAMAR | AFP | Getty Images
“Covid passes”, or passports, restrict access to public places to people who have been vaccinated, recently healed or have a negative Covid test. They are increasingly relied on to keep leisure activities and businesses open, although critics say they are isolating companies based on vaccination lines.
Europe was rocked by protests in November when thousands demonstrated against new restrictions and the implementation of Covid passes in Brussels, Vienna, Rome and Amsterdam following an increase in infections with Covid.