The implications of mandatory vaccination go beyond the laboratory and into the world of human rights.
Although most health professionals recommend getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, could the Covid-19 vaccine become mandatory?
For example, hundreds of people in more than 150 French cities recently demonstrated against a policy that would impose restrictions on employment and mobility for those who didn’t want to get vaccinated.
There is a very fine line between a change of epidemiological strategy and the legality of imposing measures.
It’s very difficult to reach a middle ground where everyone is happy. That’s the problem.
In an interview for Tec Review, Susana López Charretón, a researcher from the Institute of Biotechnology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), explains that while she agrees that making Covid-19 vaccination mandatory would be a good thing, she does accept that it could be counterproductive on a strategic level.
“If people are told that vaccination is mandatory, they rebel. So, the plan instead is to convince people that the vaccine is not only for their safety but also for that of the people around them.
López Charretón says that scientific ethics require telling the truth and not interfering with the will of the people. However, this doesn’t mean abandoning the following specific option:
“We have to appeal to people’s sense of social responsibility, to convince them,” explained the scientist from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
In an interview, Ramón Antonio González García Conde, president of the Mexican Society of Virology agreed with López Charretón’s point of view, and added the following:
“While there is no effective drug against COVID-19, the only way to make a substantial difference is through vaccination. Persuading people to wear face masks or avoid public places doesn’t seem to work. People don’t follow the rules.”
González García Conde also points out that each country should implement solutions based on its own laws, principles and values while taking into account the scientific consensus.
In Spain, just over 66% of the adult population has now received at least a single dose of the vaccine.
Mexico has vaccinated more than 50%, but with just the first dose.
“In Mexico, there are more people who want to be vaccinated than those who don’t. Hopefully, we’ll soon be talking about vaccination rates of 60 to 70%. I hope that happens, for the benefit of the whole community. According to studies, the percentage required to achieve herd immunity against the Delta variant has risen from 70 to 80% of the population,” says the president of the Mexican Society of Virology.
According to González, the fact that the third wave of infections is growing faster than the previous ones is directly related to this mutation of the virus. However, it appears that a point of control will soon be reached.
“If no new variants emerge, I’d estimate that we’ll reach an acceptable level of immunity by the end of this year or at the beginning of the next. That will mean there won’t be so many dangerous infections in Mexico,” says the scientist.
The proposal to make the Covid-19 vaccination obligatory isn’t only linked to scientific data, but also to the business world. Proof of this is comes from the United States, where companies such as Google and Facebook have only allowed their employees to return to their offices if they have been vaccinated.
For this reason, Tec Review asked Ricardo Grayeb Alarcón, director of specialist labor law firm Grayeb Abogados in Mexico City, about the matter.
This expert explained that, according to what many scientists have said, making the vaccine mandatory would a good strategy.
However, it couldn’t be a legal requirement because it would violate the human rights of those who didn’t want to get vaccinated.
“Although employers have a duty to guarantee their employees’ health and safety at work, human rights go beyond that. One of those is the right to freedom of thought, which includes religion and other convictions that might mean someone doesn’t want to get vaccinated.”
According to Grayeb, if you wanted to override this right it would be considered discrimination under Mexican labor laws, which are stricter in these terms than those of the United States.
“Data privacy rights would also be affected because vaccination isn’t directly linked to how people perform their jobs.”
So, according to Grayeb, employers or colleagues wouldn’t even be able to know whether someone has been vaccinated or not.
“Compulsory vaccination is a multifaceted issue but, in legal terms, it can’t be used to fire an employee,” he says.
According to the lawyer, employers cannot force their workers to get vaccinated until there is an official decree mandating vaccination, but they do have the right and the obligation to promote it among their employees.
“The role of the employer isn’t to take measures which have no basis in law, but rather to make people aware of the implications of not getting vaccinated. They can’t go beyond that.”
Grayeb emphasizes that raising awareness is a start but without, “going beyond the power of the law.”