Vaccination by force: Unscientific and unsound

2 December 2021 - On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that government would “undertake broad consultations on making vaccination mandatory.” This has been followed by calls from various other parties for vaccine mandates, including one proposal to withhold social grants from the unvaccinated, or to force jabs.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that government would “undertake broad consultations on making vaccination mandatory.” This has been followed by calls from various other parties for vaccine mandates, including one proposal to withhold social grants from the unvaccinated, or to force jabs.

Such calls disturbingly contradict the right to “control over [one’s] body”, enshrined in Section 12 of the Bill of Rights. In addition, replacing reasoned pro-vaccination persuasion with coercive mandates will only alienate those who are uncertain about vaccines.

Mandate proposals further ignore the scientifically complex interaction of recovery, vaccination, and protection.

In November 2021, Lancet, one of the world’s foremost academic journals, published a meta-analysis, a study of several other studies, which showed that the protection offered by recovery is at least as robust, durable and adaptive, as known vaccines, if not more so. [link here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00676-9/fulltext]

Indeed, the analysis notes that, “In Switzerland, residents who can prove they have recovered from a SARS-CoV-2 infection through a positive PCR or other test in the past 12 months are considered equally protected as those who have been fully vaccinated.” Beyond this, however, the analysis cautions that, “Some people who have recovered from COVID-19 might not benefit from COVID-19 vaccination. In fact, one study found that previous COVID-19 was associated with increased adverse events following vaccination with the Comirnaty BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine (Pfizer–BioNTech). In addition, there are rare reports of serious adverse events following COVID-19 vaccination.”

The IRR’s Gabriel Crouse points out the ethical implications of this data, asking, “How can anyone know that convalescents might not benefit, and in fact might even suffer ‘increased adverse events’ from vaccination, yet still want to force them to be vaccinated?”

It is worth recalling that in mid-August, before the end of South Africa’s third wave, Discovery estimated that up to 80% of residents may have been infected and recovered from Covid-19, thus already enjoying a high measure of protection. Currently, no government operative can be certain how many people are at high risk of hospitalisation or death from Covid-19 because of a lack of information about how many have already been infected.

Rather than erode rights by jabbing blindly, the government should undertake to determine with greater certainty the share of the population that has recovered from Covid-19. This would not only assist international scientists, who hypothesise that our record-high infection rate may have triggered the new variant, making it more re-infectious but milder, but would also assist policy makers to plan ahead.

Crouse observes that, “Once government has established with high certainty how many people have convalescent protection it can reorientate its vaccine program to target those who have not been previously infected. Coercive injection against any individual must be opposed, but taking recoveries into account the matter is likely already academic in any case.”

As the German Health Minister, Jens Spahn, recently said, “by the end of this [northern] winter, pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, recovered, or dead…That’s the reality.”

South Africa likely already finds itself in the same position, meaning that very few people are still at high risk. But to be certain – and to ensure that its policies are informed by scientific fact rather than guesswork – the government must determine with urgency the share of the population that already enjoys convalescent protection.

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