The news of successful vaccines, their development, distribution and success rate analyses have surrounded the world in their discussions. Vaccines, vaccination drives, the trade and issues of supply and demand are all approaching us very soon. In the anticipated scenario, we bring to you an understanding of the right to vaccinate as human rights, the right to not vaccinate as human rights, and the intriguing question of whether the ability to exercise one such side will trample over the larger benefit thus violating human rights in the wider picture – or not?

While most of the population desires to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, there are certain groups of people, individuals, and communities who are vocal and take a firm stance against getting vaccinated! These category of people – the anti-vaxxers as they are commonly referred to as, have been prevalent and have been known to exercise their choice to not vaccinate themselves as well as their kids. However, with the onset of the global pandemic – the COVID-19, this issue was guessed to be coming soon and yet there was no concrete stance on how to deal with the same.

Why choose not to vaccinate? Why be against a source of ‘cure’ that may go a long way in eradicating the disease?

The answer is not a uniform, monotonous or based on one line and cause of reasoning. Different communities, different groups of people, all have their own set of reasons which vary largely. Let’s have a look at some of the reasons that have strengthened the belief of the anti-vaxxers over the years.

The primary reasoning is often observed to be rooted deep in the steep distrust in the Government! Many developing and third-world countries; even in the first world countries, there are communities who have often been neglected and not been considered with due respect nor have been communicated with properly. The lack in communication, and the uncertainty in reliance of their own governments make these communities skeptical of having something injected in their bodies. Therefore the lack in engagement, communication, and transparency of data is most definitely a leading cause. Along with this the reasons of lack of reach and most importantly, the lack of accountability tag along!

To be fair, if looked at with the receiving end of the communities’ perspective, it is understandable to certain extent – their lack of ability to trust, their experiences of being misled and not being taken into consideration in major league topics at the forefront etc. However, can this be allowed to form an exception to vaccination drives and their aim? Or should focus rather be on correcting the communication gaps and other such loopholes to keep these, more than often – ‘backward’ communities too, on track!

Moving on, some of the other important factors that contribute to making the choice of not vaccinating are poorly maintained AEFI (Adverse Events Following Immunization) systems leading to further distrust, and the major driving force in the field currently – religion based reasons!

Religious reasons have since long led the exercise of this reason to choose to not vaccinate, some don’t allow for injecting materials and polluting their body, whereas some have issues with the constituents of the vaccine.

The latter is proving to be the leading argument against the massive outburst of support that has come in taking action against vaccinating themselves with the new COVID-19 vaccines. The Muslim, the Sunni scholars have come forward condemning the new vaccine expressing their concerns over the constituents of it being comprised of “pork” and also due to its relation with China. The same is being equated to as ‘haram and thereby encircling masses belonging to this community within the ambit of this reasoning and initiating a solid drive against willing to be vaccinated.

Again, exercise of religious beliefs and related factors are to each their own, and normally interfering with them is neither appreciated nor supported. But the case here that lies amongst us is of such grave nature that the question compels us into deep thinking and analysis whether to allow the exercise of personal choices over the general good health, the overall good of the public, and health or just see and identify the clear winner of an option here and proceed with immunization drives (?)

There may be no absolute correct answer currently, however considering the situation and the extent of the global pandemic – considering the lives affected, lost and in grave danger – there is a heavy inclination towards mandating immunization drives or mandating vaccination for the public. The issue of lack of availability of enough vaccines, all their authenticity, their distribution in an equitable manner and other such factors definitely leave the scope for further study and designing the action plan – however for the sake of a hypothetical understanding or an ideal world let us just try and analyze how would and/or should the scenario unfold once all vaccines are available, and a mandatory vaccination drive is sanctioned.

How to go about it? What steps to take?

Mandatory vaccination has its roots and purpose based in the overall public interest. In a pandemic like situation it becomes essential to understand that exercise of a person’s liberty cannot overpower the larger benefit or the obligation of public health.

Some suggested steps or ideal steps (mainly focusing on India, however basic concepts and the root of ideas may be applicable to other countries and their situation) may include:

Addressing the fundamental rights and the constitutional leeway or exceptions provided for them. Main concerns here often lie in the realms of Right to Privacy and Right to Religious freedom.

It here becomes necessary to point how it has been explicitly held in K.S Puttaswamy v Union of India that “the right to privacy is not an absolute right and may be curtailed as long as the procedure is fair, just and reasonable and as long as the proportional restrictions further a legitimate state aim.” The interpretation of the same can be claimed to enforce mandatory vaccination! Therefore, right to privacy is not an absolute rights and proportional restrictions by the State are allowed.

Even the right to religious freedom, is subject to restrictions in relation with public order, morality, and health.

Compliance and substantiation from the provisions of The National Disaster Management Act of 2005. The range of powers as provided in Sections 6-10 and Sec. 62 of the Act are enough to make it possible for the respective authority to mandate vaccination!

However to also take into account the previous issues and points of concerns of certain marginalized and left-out communities, methods like creating availability and accessibility of free and equal opportunity-led vaccines and vaccination drives must be ensured!

Due care and maintaining balance between imposing a mandatory scheme and fundamental rights of a person should be looked into! There has to be transparency of data, lot more engagement of the public authorities with the public, specifically the rural and the marginalized communities.

Lesson from the documented issues of the system must be taken into consideration and a healthier, inclusive plan must be incorporated. Criticism and public’s involvement must also be encouraged. This will help reduce the hesitancy and also build trust levels.

Strengthening surveillance system and ensuring highest standards of vaccination approval is a must for implementation of a legally valid mandatory vaccination policy!

We might not be all the way in with a solution or a problem-solving mechanism at hand but research, study and conscious efforts in decoding the social situation can go a long way in making this process easier for all of us. This is a story of a lifetime, the year 2020, the world facing the brunt of a pandemic – while professionals have doused their personal life in the drive and passion to find a getaway, it’s bestowed upon us to sit and ponder and research and analyze and come up with beneficial-for-all stance!


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