The Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe. This untimely beast has forced the government to constantly readjust the measures necessary to contain its spread.
The arrival of vaccines, however, gives us a ray of hope. Covid-19 vaccines continue to perform well but, because only less than one per cent of the population is vaccinated, we are not yet out of the woods. The emergence of the Delta variant is a reminder that the worst is yet to come.
The Ministry of Health also announced that a fourth wave looms in the horizon.
Despite the availability of vaccines, however, cases have been reported of vaccine fears, coupled with vaccine hesitancy and refusal. If this continues, herd immunity will be significantly delayed and resumption of normal life won’t be achieved soon.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists vaccine hesitancy among the top 10 threats to global health. As a result, governments came up with policies to make inoculation mandatory. WHO says that is necessary to meet vital public health goals. Therefore, it must be the epicentre of the ministry’s agenda.
Vaccination of the bigger portion of the population will lead to herd immunity. That is important, but how fast we achieve it is the most important issue. And, in a pandemic, time is lives.
Herd immunity is necessary as some people cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons: Allergies, immune problems or other illnesses. Even when it’s achieved, outbreaks can still be reported — like when unvaccinated people meet or cluster together.
That is why the government must make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory — of course, with the availability of the vaccines. That could ensure high levels of vaccination coverage and how fast we reach herd immunity.
Mandatory vaccination policies are in place in different parts of the world. They include a non-voluntary element to vaccine consent and a penalty for unjustified refusal. There is a range of penalties that can push people to get vaccinated.
Australia has the “No Jab, No Pay” policy. Italy has fines for unvaccinated children who attend school.
If there’s punishment for failure to pay taxes, then one for not being vaccinated in the middle of a pandemic can be justified.
Mandatory vaccination is justifiable where there are benefits to the individual and the entire population. The ministry should start thinking about the good of the collective and not just those of an individual. The vaccines already in the country and those scheduled to arrive later should be prioritised for those who are yet to be vaccinated.
The willingness to get vaccinated may not be sufficient to achieve herd immunity but it’s definitely a step forward. Therefore, public responsibility remains the best arsenal in the war against the coronavirus.
Patrick Chiriba, Mombasa