- Fears of mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 are on the rise and the debate is polarizing people around the world, from the U.S. to Canada, India, across Latin America and Europe.
- Proposals to roll out armies of vaccinators, once a vaccine is approved, in places like the UK are raising eyebrows and spurring fears of mandatory vaccination campaigns.
- In North America, just two in five people support mandatory flu vaccinations, at least for children.
COLOMBIA. Fears of mandatory vaccination campaigns are rising even as the race towards a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 hits the final stretch.
The debate about who should get a vaccine first is on the rise and so is the one about whether vaccination should be voluntary or mandatory. Doesn’t the fate of the world come ahead of personal preference? Is it even legal to make vaccination mandatory? Is it ethical? Is it necessary? Are governments even considering mandatory vaccinations? (See, Anticentric, Oct. 6, 2020)
“I feel that mandatory vaccinations, at this point, are not necessary. The safety of vaccines is a priority,” Dr. Premlata Jeyapaul, the founding president at India’s Dr. Jeyapaul Cancer Foundation Trust and a professor of biotechnology in Chennai, India, told Antincentric. “The AstraZeneca vaccine trials raised safety issues with one volunteer suffering neurological complications. So, definitely, people with underlying neurological disorders might not want to take it. We have to wait and see if similar conditions or other underlying conditions predispose people to complications with the vaccines.”
Jeyapaul is concerned about the safety of a vaccine if approvals are rushed and questioned whether people who have already been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, even those people who are asymptomatic, require vaccination.
Bring in the army
Proposals to roll out armies of vaccinators, once a vaccine is approved, in places like the UK are raising eyebrows and spurring fears of mandatory vaccination campaigns.
“Mass vaccine rollout is an enormous responsibility and we need to get it right. Planning must start immediately and I have written to the prime minister recommending that he consider calling on the Ministry of Defense to establish a small task force led by a senior empowered voice of authority to begin the planning and design of a draft blueprint,” said MP Tobias Ellwood in late September, while speaking in the House of Commons in London. “The armed forces have the capacity, the logistical experience, and the national reach and are not overburdened by any current duties involving tackling COVID-19 to take on this mammoth (task).”
Deploying the army for a vaccination campaign, instead of calling on people to volunteer, would be an unusual move – but unusual is also the new normal in 2020. This new normal may feed into fears of mandatory vaccination campaigns.
“Many powerful interests have combined to argue that science justifies the government-led initiatives to impose, for instance, economic lockdowns, social distancing, mandatory masking, and a future of compulsory vaccines,” wrote professor Anthony J. Hallin in a post published by GlobalResearch. Hall is an Emeritus Professor of Liberal Education and Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada.
Fears of mandatory vaccinations spread globally
“A growing international movement of people, however, is coming to see that the impositions being done in the name of fighting COVID-19 are not scientific at all. Instead, we are in the midst of a propaganda war aimed at inciting fear and even panic,“ Hallin wrote.
In Calgary, one of Canada’s larger cities, many people worry about the possibility of a mandatory vaccination campaign and the powers given to local authorities to force vaccinations, if needed.
“I would be comfortable with that particular piece of the legislation being removed,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer in the Canadian province of Alberta, where Calgary is. In Alberta, the Public Health Act empowers the provincial government to mandate vaccinations during a health emergency. The COVID-19 outbreak may be just such an emergency.
In Canada, public opinion is generally in favor of mandatory vaccination campaigns, with that camp generally larger than the opposition, at least for children.
“In the online survey of representative national samples, 81% of Canadians—up three points since a similar study conducted in 2018—believe that vaccinations for children should ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ be mandatory in their province,” said Research Co., a market research firm, while commenting on the results of the survey conducted in February, right at the beginning of the outbreak.
For now, however, just two in five people in Canada and the U.S. believe that the flu vaccine should be compulsory.
But the mood, after months of lockdowns and uncertainty could change when it comes to preventing and fighting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Following the law in mandatory vaccines
People around the world are closely monitoring any legislation that could lead to mandatory vaccinations.
“This is scary,” Kevin Daum, owner at Save the Oceans, a company near Vancouver, Canada, said on LinkedIn after learning of Ellwood’s proposal.
“Forced inoculations for vaccines that have not been properly assessed for (antibody-dependent enhancement), that have not even been tested in children. Unnecessary infringement on our medical freedom is the ‘new normal’. NO THANKS!,” wrote Mary Hauser, a senior scientist and virologist working at GeoVax Labs, in the U.S. city of Atlanta.
Hauser´s comment was a reaction to a paper co-authored by Michelle Mello’s on the need to ensure the uptake of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine on October 1, 2020. Mello is a professor of law at Stanford University’s School of Law.
“One option for increasing vaccine uptake is to require it. Mandatory vaccination has proven effective in ensuring high childhood immunization rates in many high-income countries. However, except for influenza vaccination of healthcare workers, mandates have not been widely used for adults,” the researchers led by Mello wrote.
“Nevertheless, because of the infectiousness and dangerousness of the virus, relatively substantive penalties could be justified, including employment suspension or stay-at-home orders for persons in designated high-priority groups who refuse vaccination. Neither fines nor criminal penalties should be used, however.”