Legal body warns against broadly mandating vaccine

Legal body warns against broadly mandating vaccine

22 August 2021 By Lauren Croft
Legal body warns against broadly mandating vaccine

Vaccines should not be mandated outside of high-risk areas, the Human Rights Law Centre has warned.

Whilst whether or not law firms can or should mandate vaccinations has been a big point of discussion post-pandemic, the Human Rights Law Centre has warned against mandating vaccines outside of high-risk areas and called for a greater focus on supply and voluntary measures. 

This news follows the announcement that fruit packing and canning company SPC will mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all on-site staff and visitors, sparking a debate about the risks and benefits of doing so.

A number of challenges have already been identified in the notion of company-mandated vaccinations, but the centre highlighted continued problems with the pace and coverage of the vaccination roll-out, including for groups who were at greater risk from COVID-19, like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people with disability.  

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The recently released guidance from the centre is in response to growing calls to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory in settings like high-risk workplaces or as a precondition to going to events like the football or boarding an international flight. 

Human Rights Law Centre executive director Hugh de Kretser said that the government and employers must “tread very carefully” when considering mandatory vaccines, as well as consider appropriate exceptions.

“There are strong justifications for considering vaccine mandates in high-risk workplaces like aged, disability or health care. But outside of those areas, governments and employers must tread very carefully when thinking about mandating vaccines in workplaces,” he said.

“Right now, the focus must be on vaccine supply, access and promotion. Everyone who wants the vaccine should be able to get it, and public communication campaigns and incentives should be explored to promote vaccine uptake. Exceptions must be considered for people with genuine health or religious reasons.  

“Similarly, governments and businesses must tread very carefully when considering vaccine passport systems. It would be unfair to exclude people from goods and services if they cannot access the vaccine. There must be ways to ensure vaccine passport access for people without ready access to technology.”

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Whilst the centre strongly supports vaccinations in order to save lives, protect health and enable governments to safely lift restrictions, Mr de Kretser maintained that “mandating vaccines for workers outside of high-risk areas should only be considered once all reasonable voluntary efforts have been exhausted.”

“Vaccines are crucial to saving lives and restoring freedom in this pandemic. However, making vaccinations mandatory in workplaces, and the use of vaccine passports, carry significant human rights risks,” he said.

“Human rights principles can help governments and employers make the right decisions on vaccines when considering how to promote health and safety without treating people unfairly.”

Legal body warns against broadly mandating vaccine
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