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Should the vaccine be made compulsory? No, let’s resist this temptation

A carte blanche from Patrick Charlier, director of Unia, an independent public service fighting against discrimination and promoting equal opportunities.

Vaccination, if it is strongly recommended and encouraged, is however not compulsory. Neither for the whole population, nor for particular groups, nor for specific professions. And even if a law or a decree were to impose generalized vaccination, it would still be necessary to be able to vaccinate everyone.

This starting point is essential to answer a question: can certain activities be made conditional on being vaccinated? Access to certain places or services (hospitals, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums, transport, sports halls, etc.)? Participation in certain activities (internships, training, events, holiday camps, sports clubs, volunteering, etc.)? A return to school or to work in person? This is not trivial. Because there is a strong temptation to consider vaccination as the key to loosen the grip that locks us in.

However, three fundamental aspects of this reflection must be addressed.

The risk of exclusion

First of all, the chaotic route of the vaccination campaign makes us understand that it will be many months before the entire population can benefit from it. Some people are further removed from networks and official structures due in particular to their socio-economic situation, the digital divide, their limited autonomy, their residence status or even their way of life (Travelers). How to justify the prohibition of certain activities to those who ask only to be vaccinated but who cannot (yet)? As we already pointed out in our report Covid 19 – human rights put to the test, the difficulties of setting up an effective, egalitarian and accessible vaccination campaign reveal how precarious our socio-health system is. And therefore unwittingly weakens the most vulnerable among us. Are we therefore able to break down the offer of activities according to the immunization status of individuals? Are we not going to add a layer of confusion or even arbitrariness to those that exist?

The freedom not to be vaccinated

On the other hand, conditioning access to certain services or activities to the vaccination status would penalize many people who cannot be vaccinated and this because of their disability, their state of health, their age, their state of health. pregnancy… There are also those who, because of their opinions or their convictions, choose not to be vaccinated. Should they “pay” and take responsibility for the choice they make? The moral or ethical question here is not new. Our company has made the choice, and it is to its credit, to treat the smoker of his cancer, the bon vivant of his cardiovascular disease, and to hospitalize the driver in intensive care. Access to fundamental rights and respect for the principles of non-discrimination are not meritorious, they in no way depend on the behavior of those who rely on them. Because all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Also, as long as vaccination is not made legally compulsory, the freedom not to be vaccinated must be respected. And, in the absence of specific regulations, it is not up to private actors to distinguish or control individuals on the basis of their vaccination status.

The vaccine, a complementary measure

Finally, the question of the general interest naturally comes to mind. Faced with the significant difficulties generated by the pandemic, the restrictions on social, economic and cultural activities, the limitations on some of our rights and freedoms, our entire society is suffering, on an individual and collective level, certain sectors being more particularly affected. Wouldn’t the vaccination obligation or the control of the vaccination status be the alpha and the omega of the strategy of deconfinement? That the fight against the pandemic constitutes a legitimate and general objective, there is no doubt about it. All the texts relating to fundamental rights consider that in the name of the protection of health, rights and freedoms may be restricted. It is also necessary that this be done by means of a law – which is still not the case – and that the measures taken be proportionate and limited in time. This assessment of the proportionality of the means used falls first of all to the legislator who, we cannot repeat it enough, must also work by integrating a citizen voice and by promoting debate. It is on this condition that a possible opening of certain services accompanied by individual health conditions (vaccines, tests) could perhaps take place.

Vaccination should be seen as a complementary element to all other measures taken to contain the pandemic. The reopening of cinemas, theaters, cafes, restaurants, sports halls, the extension of face-to-face attendance at school, university, work, and the facilitation of travel and travel should not be made conditional on the only question of vaccination. This must be part of a more general strategy combining other known measures (social distancing, barrier gestures, protections, screens, masks, etc.), so that deconfinement is as inclusive as possible, vaccinated or not.

>>> Title, chapeau and intertitles are editorial.

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