The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has stated that it would be a violation of human rights to compel people to get vaccinated if they have chosen not to.
The Gauteng provincial manager appealed to people who feel compelled by their employers to get vaccinated to lodge a complaint with the SAHRC.
In response, advocate Jonathan Berger, who worked in the 2000s for people with HIV to have access to medicine, tweeted: “The HRC appears to be opposed to any and all vaccine mandates, regardless of context. That’s deeply problematic.”
Berger is correct.
The SAHRC position illustrates a misunderstanding between an infectious illness and one that is contagious. Infectious illnesses such as HIV are not transmitted through casual contact, whereas Covid is a contagious disease that is transmitted through casual contact.
Therefore, Covid is a notifiable illness and the health authorities have extensive powers based on a rational limitation of certain fundamental rights such as privacy and freedom of movement.
Lockdowns in response to the epidemic have cost millions of people employment or loss of income. The state has, for varying periods of time, shut down schools and places of worship. Lockdowns have restricted movement, political gatherings and social activities. They have affected every person and constituted an extensive limitation of fundamental rights.
This was done to save lives.
We can debate the extent to which lockdowns were needed and the way they were implemented. But vaccines unequivocally offer a way to end them.
Refusal by a person to take a vaccine when there is no medical reason to do so affects the rights to life, health, dignity, safe work environment, education, safe worship and socialising of other people.
The SAHRC is surely misguided in its approach.
By Zackie Achmat - Achmat was cofounder and former chair of the Treatment Action Campaign
For more info see: https://citizen.co.za