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COVID 19 has changed the way the world operates. The pandemic has led to financial, economic, and political strain, which in turn, have altered the way human beings’ function in what we all once knew as “normality”.
Fortunately, the first vaccine has been approved and is being distributed to countries around the world.
South Africa has also started to roll out the vaccine, however, the progress is fairly slow.
Why is this?
With the vaccine comes a lot of scepticism which has not only led to ever- growing numbers of infection but has led to many people refusing to take the vaccine.
The President must consider various constitutional rights which each citizen is entitled to.
Section 12 (2) (b) of the Constitution grants everyone the right to bodily and psychological integrity – which includes the right to security in and over control over their bodies. This right is intertwined with the other constitutional rights such as the right to human dignity and rights to freedom and religion. There are legal limitations in terms of Section 36 of the Constitution, however, South Africa’s legal standpoint is that everyone should have a right to voluntarily be vaccinated if they choose to.
We must distinguish between mandatory and enforceable.
Mandatory vaccination refers to the right to choose and having the legal right to refuse but having a social obligation to get vaccinated. Forced vaccination refers to forcibly injecting citizens against their will.
South Africa has adopted a phased approach to the vaccination roll out and we will have to wait and see whether these changes of adapting circumstances are not implemented.
This is the legal position most countries have had rather than enforcing someone against their beliefs to be vaccinated.
Considering this, what most countries are doing to encourage vaccinations are offering privileges or restricting access to activities in a country. One might say that governments are indirectly enforcing vaccinations to prevent COVID 19 from spreading. In certain countries a person refusing to get vaccinated is being isolated and labelled as being unsafe which may affect one’s ability to earn an income.
In South Africa, a mandatory employer vaccination policy may be considered. Work environments have a duty to protect their staff members and an assessment process may be implemented in the work environment to ensure high risk patients are protected accordingly. This process will ensure that companies are obliged to protect their staff as per their duties. If a person is to exercise their right in the workplace not to be forced to be vaccinated, they may not be discriminated against but will have to abide by certain rules and regulations implemented by the company such as wearing a mask permanently in the work environment.
Many citizens are wondering whether globally the COVID19 vaccines will have an impact on domestic and international traveling. So far as most countries are focusing on the vaccine roll outs and these restrictions have not been permitted in various parts of the world.
However, in the future this may impact international travel as more countries uplift the travel bans and allow international travel to continue. You may in the future need to show evidence of your vaccination to be able to travel to combat the spread of COVID19 and the various strains coming from different parts of the world.
We not only as a society but as a nation must adapt to the new global way of living to ensure our social responsibility of protecting ourselves, our economy and the future that we strive for.
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