BONELA Warns Gov’t Not To Make Vaccination Mandatory

Says it would sue for protection of human rights


Botswana Network of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) says it will take legal action against the government should it make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory.

According to the organisation’s Director, Cindy Kelemi, making vaccines mandatory would be an infringement on human rights, primarily the right to personal liberty and freedom from discrimination. “The documented benefits of COVID-19 vaccines notwithstanding, BONELA posits that these vaccines should not be made mandatory in any situation, including in the workplace,” Kelemi said.

About balancing public health and human rights, she responded: “From a human rights perspective, there are conditions under which these rights can be limited. And one of those is that the limitation being applied should be necessary to achieve a legitimate objective and that the limitation is the only available alternative. But in this instance, limiting rights is not the only alternative. Vaccination is not the only alternative.

“There are other alternatives for curbing the spread of COVID-19 that have been documented to be effective. These include wearing masks, sanitising and social distancing. So there isn’t enough justification for limiting rights in this instance, and there isn’t enough justification for using an invasive approach.”

BONELA is therefore prepared to take legal action should the government make vaccination mandatory, Kelemi emphasised. “Not allowing unvaccinated people to access certain services or spaces is a violation of their human rights,” she said. “It is discrimination of the highest order. Should we be made aware as BONELA of people being exposed to such treatment, we will take the necessary measures, including seeking legal redress.”

The government recently announced that it plans to have vaccinated at least 70 percent of the eligible population to achieve herd immunity. Health minister Edwin Dikoloti has said vaccinating as many people as possible is critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19 and therefore vaccinating all eligible populations should offer protection to the rest of the population.

The ministry’s Chief Public Relations Officer, Dr Christopher Nyanga, told has told The Gazette that the government is not considering making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for now but is focusing on public education as the best method of encouraging people to get inoculated.

“We encourage all Batswana and residents of the country to get their jabs, given the benefits that have so far been proved in Botswana and elsewhere in the world of how a vaccinated people become better prepared to deal with issues of COVID-19 severity and possibilities of being hospitalised on account of being infected with COVID-19.”