LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | Covid-19 vaccine debate: What News24 readers have to say

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News24 has received varying views to calls that Covid-19 vaccines must be mandatory. Photo: Getty Images
News24 has received varying views to calls that Covid-19 vaccines must be mandatory. Photo: Getty Images

Amidst calls that the Covid-19 vaccine be made mandatory, News24 has received some letters in favour of changing government policy. But not everyone has a similar views. You can read the letters below which are for and against  mandatory Covid-19 jabs. 

Push for mass vaccination based on speculation

I think the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is correct in its assertion that it would be a violation of human rights to compel people to get vaccinated if they have chosen not to.

Global data suggest that less than 4% of the total deaths from Covid-19 are in the under 35 age group, a group that makes up a sizeable two-thirds of the South African population. Data also indicates that young people without comorbidities such obesity, hypertension or diabetes are highly unlikely to die or suffer complications from Covid-19 infection, to the extent that they may even be more likely to experience the albeit rare complications from vaccination than those of Covid-19. Despite these established facts, our government and other world governments seem determined to press on with mass vaccination of young people, and even children, to the extent that our employers and educational institutions are now considering limiting access to jobs and education for the unvaccinated.

Before we start shouting for vaccination in low-risk groups for 'the greater good',  perhaps we can unpack this rationale, which is currently driving the dangerous mass suppression of publicity and reporting over protests against compulsory vaccination all over Europe, with France and Italy being just the latest examples. In the absence of evidence that the vaccination of young people prevents more disease and death in that age group than it potentially causes, many have looked to the transmissibility theory, that is that unvaccinated people are more likely to transmit Covid-19 than the vaccinated, and therefore pose a greater risk to others.

What does the World Health Organization say about this, an organisation with a global mandate to sift though clinical and public health data to formulate policy for the greatest health good? A look at their evaluation of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine being widely rolled out in SA shows that 'Currently no substantive data are available related to impact of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine on transmission or viral shedding'. Similar statements are made about the other vaccines.

That vaccination reduces the harm caused by Covid-19 infection is a given, there are clear data to back this assertion, and those at risk of severe Covid-19 illness should be rushing to receive theirs (and indeed prioritised). But for government and policy makers to state that mass vaccination is required to reduce transmission of the virus seems to be speculation based on theoretical assumptions, rather than hard evidence. Similar assumptions are being made about vaccinating everyone to reduce the possibility of more dangerous new variants developing - bring on some scientific evidence please.

The mass vaccination of young healthy people only serves to exclude those really in need of protection - older people and those with comorbidities, who are naturally hesitant to sit in the lengthy vaccination queues and further put themselves at risk. A major reallocation of the healthcare resources required for a mass vaccination programme also serves to marginalise others with diseases such as TB and HIV (which, incidentally, kills at least as many South Africans per day as Covid has). We are already seeing testing and treatment uptake rates decrease in these groups due to the effects of lockdowns and a repositioning of preventative healthcare efforts towards Covid-19.

For people to be penalised and prevented from participating in essential work and educational pursuits for not taking up vaccination, especially young people for whom the disease poses no risk personally, is at best, misguided public health policy and at worst, an abuse of the freedom of movement, freedom of association and right to bodily integrity and choice that previous generations of South Africans fought long and hard for. Those who will be most affected by such loss of personal choice are people working in the often low-paid sectors such as retail and hospitality. Forcing people to be vaccinated to enable them to engage in the activities necessary for basic survival should be rigorously opposed.

 - Helen Robinson, North West Province

 Vaccinate and make it safer for everyone

I am a 66 year-old citizen now fully vaccinated, and so are all my family members in the same age group. Why not make it mandatory for younger, working people who are still in the job market to make it safer for them as well as ourselves, who still have a small chance of being infected by them? I do not understand the issue!

- Antoinette Pieters 

Leave the choice up to individuals on whether to get jabbed

I'm just so sick and tired of this vaccine debate. The only truths that we can agree on is that nobody really holds the moral high ground regarding vaccines as not one vaccine type has been signed off as being completely tested and found to be 100% effective in that you will not get Covid or spread Covid if you take this vaccine and you may now remove your mask. The only other truth is that big pharma is the only beneficiary from vaccines.

Why this feverish drive to make vaccines mandatory. Do I not have a right to allow my body to perform it's immune function in the way that it was designed to? I can only imagine the uproar if we are forced to only buy a certain brand if jeans or handbag or forced to only drive one type of car brand!

Bottom line, obesity and poor lifestyle choices have been filling up ICU way before Covid and nobody blinked.

Let us not allow this vaccine to drive division among us. Let's give each other space to make our own informed decisions, but most importantly, let's spread the love and dance as if nobody is watching.

- Paul Cilliers  

Make the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory 

I am a professional nurse not in practice at the moment. 

Covid is not only a national problem, WHO declared Covid a world pandemic in 2020. When a solution or attempted solution is brought into the picture of ending the pandemic, surely there cannot be choice as to whether individuals or nations can choose to vaccinate or not. It must be mandatory because it affects life of others.

  - Seucha Kganakga 

What about our civil liberties?

It seems our cherished civil rights and our oh so beloved constitution have been thrown out the window. I am shocked to see how many News24 contributors push the merits of mandatory vaccinations.

It seems we have forgotten that the only way our constitutional means anything at all is if it respected in all circumstances. The basis of a liberal democracy is that of individual rights, not collective rights. History has shown time and time again the dangers of disregarding individual rights in favour of the collective.

So my questions for those who seem to be gleefully cheering for the end of medical autonomy and the destruction of the individual liberties enshrined in our constitution are as follows:

1) How are we to safeguard further erosions of our civil liberties, once the precedent is set?

2) Who is to define under what conditions a breach of medical and bodily autonomy is warranted?

3) How do we define "public safety"? Who decides in which public spheres "public safety" trumps  the individual liberties enshrined in our constitution ?

4) Your contributors seem to think vaccines are a magic bullet, are they aware that all vaccines come with potentially side effects? 

I eagerly await a response that calms my deep concerns about this issue. Until then, I will not be taking the vaccine, mandated or not. Also I will continue to view anyone pushing for mandatory vaccines as threats to the constitution and basic human decency.

Matthew - concerned citizen.


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