With potential vaccines against the SARS CoV2 virus now nearing reality, issues of distribution to the population are being discussed, but also whether it should be mandatory.
The answer for a policy of mandatory vaccination against the virus seems to be a qualified, no.
The reason is that while recent polls show a majority of Canadians would get vaccinated when the vaccine becomes available, forcing the issue would harm public trust.
In the University of Alberta’s newsletter last month Ubaka Obbogu a professor in the faculties of law and pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences said that while he encourages vaccinations, ” I don’t think it should be the same for COVID-19. I think if you did that for the pandemic, the whole thing would be drowned out by objections, and that’s going to detract from a positive outcome.”
A bioethicist at the University of Toronto feels the same. Kerry Bowman is quoted in the CBC saying,” “If our government … should say, ‘You absolutely have to do this,’ we really, really risk a very negative backlash that, in fact, could kind of catch fire and it could actually increase the amount of people not getting vaccinated”.
He added that it would be unethical, “We live in a society with certain levels of freedom and nothing can be done to any of our bodies without our explicit consent medically, or other in other realms as well,
Another expert is Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta. Interviewed on CBC radio, he said , “Bottom line is, so far the data is looking good, but do we have enough data where we want to have a mandatory policy? Do we want to wait and see what the [vaccine’s] safety profile is after we’ve given it to thousands, maybe millions of individuals before we develop those kinds of policies”?
In the meantime there is also the issue of private commercial operations demanding proof of vaccination, The idea of ‘immunity passports’ has already been raised in order to have access to events of services.
Indeed Australia’s Quantas airline has just announced that it will soon demand proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before allowing international passengers aboard.
Such a passport may take digital form and such digital health certificates are alreasy being developed in conjunction with the World Economic Forum. One is called a ‘Common Pass’
The International Air Transport Association ( IATA) reported on Monday, that it was working with with British Airways owner IAG on a ‘health pass’.
While Quantas management believes other airlines will follow suit, the backlash has already begun.
Several calls in Australia have been made to boycott Quantas if it proceeds with policy.
A major travel firm Tradewinds Travel, which specialises in all-inclusive vacations has indicated it will stop booking on Quantas flights if the policy goes through.
Many on twitter who object to the policy say they don’t object to vaccinations, but rather with the idea of making them mandatory.
- CBC: Nov 22/20: Experts worry that making a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory could harm public trust.
- U Alberta Folio: M Brown: Oct 21/20: Some vaccines should be mandatory but not COVID-19, says U of A expert
- News.com.au: L McMah: Nov 24/20 Alan Joyce slammed over COVID vaccination rule on Quantas flights
- CNN (CTV): Nov 24/20; Quantas boss says passengers will need to be vaccinated for international flights