How should the government be dealing with people who refuse to get the COVID vaccine?

Source: Asian Development Bank (via Flickr)

By Catarina Vicente | Comment Editor

With the pandemic, many countries were faced with the choice of making the vaccine mandatory – some have stressed its importance through laws or punishment, whereas others, like the UK, have given people the choice. With the pandemic persisting months after it began, it’s worth delving into whether this is a matter of free choice or one of protecting the community at large.

Some have gone the way to make the vaccines mandatory, such as Turkmenistan and Indonesia. Several countries have introduced different types of ‘penalties’ for those who choose to go unvaccinated: Austria has imposed restrictions for unvaccinated citizens, keeping them from more crowded venues. These penalties can be harsher: in Singapore, unvaccinated people have now been blocked from the financial help in covering medical bills that has been provided to all vaccinated people. Although the UK has never indicated the possibility of restrictions for unvaccinated people, it has introduced the COVID pass, which allows entry into events with larger attendance, and is currently focused on vaccine roll-out.

Some have called this the bare minimum: 68% of the UK’s population is vaccinated, as well as 72% of Wales’, but the infection rates remain at 511.1. This caused many people to urge the government to do more.

However, it has also incited a discussion around freedom of choice. Those who chose to forgo the vaccine have cited skepticism over its origin, fear of subsequent symptoms, or mental and physical circumstances. While some have chalked this to freedom of choice, others have also mentioned the dangers of infection from unvaccinated citizens.

For now, the Public Health Act of 1984 prevents vaccine schemes from being made mandatory. But if the UK were to enforce penalties for refusing the vaccine, this would largely improve the UK’s condition and slow infection rates across the country.

Catarina Vicente Comment

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