Wellington protest: Why did the government miss the advice from the World Health Organisation regarding vaccine mandates?

I have never been in favour of vaccine mandates and said so when they were announced in October last year but the dissenting voices were few and far between.

The serious problems which have arisen from this government decision have been played out for all to see, although the lessons will be lost on many.

To our cost, the country never debated the pros and cons of mandates. Had we done so I think we would have landed in a different place.

Most importantly, we should have taken much closer note of World Health Organisation advice. For a government focused on “taking advice from health professionals” it’s a surprise WHO advice was not given higher priority because the signals for trouble were all there.

WHO have said repeatedly vaccine mandates should be a “last resort” and detailed their reasoning in a paper here. Here are a few extracts:

“The World Health Organisation does not presently (13 April 2021) support the direction of mandates for Covid 19 vaccination, having argued that it is better to work on information campaigns and making vaccines accessible.”

“If vaccine mandates are used “individual liberties should not be challenged for longer than necessary”” 

“Even when the vaccine is considered safe, mandatory vaccination should be implemented with no-fault compensation schemes to address any vaccine-related harm that might occur”

And for this country of gross inequality, poverty and the mistrust and marginalisation which goes with it, how could the government not have taken this section seriously?

“Policy-makers have a duty to carefully consider the effect that mandating vaccination could have on public confidence and public trust, and particularly on confidence inthe scientific community and public trust in vaccination generally (9). If such a policy threatens to undermine confidence and public trust, it might affect both vaccineuptake and adherence to other important public health measures, which can have an enduring effect (10). In particular, the coercive power that governments or institutions display in a programme that undermines voluntariness could have unintended negative consequences for vulnerable or marginalized populations (11). Highpriority should therefore be given to threats to public trust and confidence amongst historically disadvantaged minority populations, ensuring that culturalconsiderations are taken into account. Vaccine hesitancy may be stronger in such populations and may not be restricted to concerns of safety and efficacy(12), as mistrust in authorities may be rooted in histories of unethical medical and public health policies and practices as well as structural inequity (9). Suchpopulations may regard mandatory vaccination as another form of inequity or oppression, making it more difficult for them to access jobs and essentialservices (13)” 

“Even if there is a sufficient supply and a mandate for vaccination of the general public is considered necessary and proportionate, policy-makers should still consider whether a mandate for the general public would threaten public trust or exacerbate inequity for the most vulnerable or marginalized”

Added fuel to the problem was the Prime Minister’s specific assurance there would be no consequences of any kind for anyone who chose not to be vaccinated which was then reversed.

Moving forward the government should do two things:

  1. End vaccine mandates now because, with rapid antigen tests available, any possible justification is long gone.
  2. The government should apologise to all of us for the broken promise.

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