By Jameson Chauluka
The proposed mandatory Covid vaccination for key workers such as journalists, healthcare workers and other civil servants, continues to face resistance, with human rights lawyer Khwima Mchizi and human rights activist Michael Kaiyatsa claiming that Malawi’s laws do not support such a measure.
The two said this at a press briefing which Media Institute of Southern Africa organised for the two and Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe.
“If you look at the conditions of limiting human rights in Section 44 of the Constitution, the first [condition] is that the limitation must be prescribed by law. There is no law providing for mandatory vaccination and, at that point, we do not even have to go to the other limitations.
“But in the event that the law is enacted, then we will have to look at whether mandatory vaccination is reasonable and, to answer that question, the government will have to address key questions such as whether all other prevention measures have failed and that mandatory vaccination is the least intrusive of all preventive measures. In general terms, however, this limitation would be recognised by international human rights standards because polio mandatory vaccination took place but, as I said, that is only in general terms,” Mchizi said.
Kaiyatsa concurred with Mchizi, saying mandatory vaccination violates the right to the bodily autonomy of an individual.
He also noted that “some people may want to shun vaccination due to religious beliefs”, saying the right to religion, conscience and thought was absolute.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala referred The Daily Times to the Ministry of Health as it was the one that came up with the idea.
Chikumbe, who attended the briefing, said they consulted the Office of the Attorney General and were waiting for guidance.
He, however, said mandatory vaccination was important in the fight against the spread of coronavirus, claiming that people were not following all preventative measures.
“How many people are wearing facemasks now? How many are social or physical distancing and how many people are washing their hands regularly? So, we are saying all these measures are not being followed and now what remains is mandatory vaccination,” he said.
As of January 16, Malawi had 759,156 fully vaccinated people. Epidemiologist Titus Divala has attributed the low uptake of Covid vaccines to government inefficiencies in planning, procurement and implementation of vaccine programmes.