[Opinion column written by OBA MP Susan Jackson]
Vaccine incentives have become a topical debate as Bermuda races to vaccinate our community amidst rising Covid-19 cases and deaths. The race for vaccination is increasingly urgent and the possibility of incentives has become the ‘carrot on a stick’ to increase the number of people vaccinated to achieve 70%-80% “herd immunity”.
Is the idea of giving something in return for getting the jab discriminatory?
Will there become a separate state compromised of the haves and the have nots?
These questions led me to take a deeper look at whether requiring a vaccine passport, let’s say, to travel abroad or to socialize with other vaccinated people outside a household bubble might be against the law?
Following discussion with OBA Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs, Scott Pearman, and taking my own deeper-dive into our Human Rights law, I understood the following. If government passed a law to mandate that everyone had to, by law, get a vaccination, then one might say it’s against their human rights to have their body violated by a forced injection.
This is certainly not the case in Bermuda. Getting vaccinated, in Bermuda, is a personal choice. Everyone is encouraged to talk to a doctor and make a personal decision to be vaccinated, or not. As a result of that personal decision, preference may be given to those who do get vaccinated over those who don’t get vaccinated. This begs the question “what fundamental human right is being denied”?
Discrimination against one’s human rights occurs when there is less favourable treatment on the grounds of a protected characteristic, like race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation or age.
In Bermuda, discriminatory whisperings surrounding the vaccine focus on whether a non-vaccinated person may be denied the right to travel, or denied a discount on purchases, or even denied the ability to freely move about the island.
These preferences, more commonly referred to as incentives, are a matter of choice. Yes, they are designed to encourage more people to make the choice to get vaccinated, but this has no bearing on the protected characteristics of a human rights violation. Because a person makes a personal choice not to get vaccinated, it’s that individual’s personal decision, and it may include living with consequences.
If we can encourage more people to get vaccinated, it helps Bermuda to re-open for business. It increases the freedoms to socialize and move about the island for all. Remember, Bermuda is striving for herd immunity [70%-80% vaccinated] and, simply put, we must create a protective barrier to reduce the risks for those not vaccinated.
There are going to be un-vaccinated individuals, whether for health or personal reasons, and it’s the vaccinated population who will protect the un-vaccinated and reduce the spread of the virus. It is my personal choice to get vaccinated because I’ll do whatever it takes to protect the vulnerable which in this case, includes the un-vaccinated.
– Susan Jackson