Compulsory vaccination ‘not a new idea’

The front-liners at work at the Vunimono hall during the vaccination drive. Picture: ATU RASEA/FILE

Compulsory vaccination is not a new idea to governments, says prominent employment lawyer Jon Apted.

Mr Apted said the issue during the COVID-19 pandemic was how far and in what circumstances the requirement for a person to be vaccinated as a condition of some benefit could be imposed by a State, an employer, school or public person like a retailer or shop.

Mr Apted highlighted this during an online annual lecture series organised by the Citizen’s Constitutional Forum (CCF) last Thursday.

He said compulsory vaccination began in 1953 in England and the US Supreme Court upheld compulsory smallpox vaccination in 1905, but following World War II and the Nuremberg experiments, a new right was introduced and that right was now reflected in our Constitution.

“Freedom from medical experimentation, scientific treatment and medical treatment without your consent, so this is the novel area.”

He said COVID-19 was the first real international pandemic since the right had come to be recognised.

Mr Apted said many countries had accepted they could impose it, not as a requirement for compulsory vaccination “but as a mandatory condition for certain things”.

He said no State was saying yet that its people must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face fines.

“So far, all States have said that if you’re not vaccinated against COVID, you may not do this kind of work, like you can’t work in a nursing home, you can’t work in a hospital, you can’t work in a border facility in some countries.”

He said in some countries, unvaccinated persons could not go to restaurants, nightclubs or places where they were in close proximity to other people and where they risked infecting them.

Mr Apted said in those cases, limitations would arise and they could justify them based on a person’s right coming into conflict with the rights of others and balancing the two rights.

He said what people needed to realise was that no right was absolute.

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