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Sunday, January 16, 2022

The talk by the government of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations frightening

Columns The talk by the government of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations frightening

By Fred M’membe

While I strongly encourage and urge everyone to vaccinate, I find the talk by the government of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations frightening. Let’s persuade, plead with our people to take COVID-19 vaccinations, but let’s avoid blackmailing them into doing so. Vaccinations should never be mandatory. It is a very serious human rights violation to make vaccinations compulsory.

Human rights conventions demand that a person must not be subjected to medical treatment without his or her full, free, and informed consent. And because vaccination is a medical procedure, forcing a person to be vaccinated against his or her will is a clear violation of this right.

Every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, and that a person must not be coerced or restrained in a way that limits his or her freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief in observance or practice. Conscience is a person’s conviction as to what is right and wrong. Some people may object on political grounds, believing that it is not the proper role of government to force people to be vaccinated, even if they do not object in principle to vaccination. Some people are genuinely concerned that receiving a vaccination poses a substantial risk of physical injury or harm. Some people may object on religious grounds to being vaccinated.

For all these categories of people, forcing a person to be vaccinated violates that person’s freedom of conscience or religious beliefs, or forces them to do something they believe is potentially harmful. Underlying all the rights protected by human rights conventions is the concept of autonomy and dignity. Each person has the right to determine for himself or herself matters of bodily integrity including whether to be vaccinated.

Under international human rights law, especially Article 4(2) of the ICCPR, certain rights are non-derogable, even in a time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation — that is, the rights cannot be limited under any circumstances. Non-derogable rights include the right not to be subjected to medical experimentation (contained in article 7). In other words, there are no countervailing rights or considerations which would make it legitimate to force someone to undergo medical experimentation or treatment without their consent.

This is an indication that the right not to be subjected to medical treatment is a fundamental right and cannot be set aside in the interests of other policy goals. Therefore, although an international treaty cannot override the interpretation of domestic legislation, international law provides a strong indication that the right not to be subjected to medical treatment is an absolute right that cannot be limited. This ought to set a very high bar on any attempt to mandate forms of medical treatment — including vaccination.

The right not to be subjected to medical treatment recognises each person’s autonomy: that every person’s body is not a disposable object to be subjected under the perceived common good. Imposing mandatory vaccination on every citizen needs to be recognised as a clear breach of this commitment to uphold rights. It is troubling that the rights supposedly protected by the ICCPR can be so easily overridden.

Mandatory vaccination has significant implications for human rights and the nature of government power which need to be clearly understood. For a start, it has implications for the nature of consent.

Despite this clear requirement for free consent, the foreshadowed vaccine mandate means very Zambian will need to be vaccinated, regardless of their personal views. This arguably poses an alarming precedent.

If a person can be forced against his or her will to be vaccinated for the common good, does this signal an erosion of bodily autonomy?
Mandatory vaccination signals that there is no area of life exempt from political and governmental control. Even fundamental questions of human autonomy and bodily integrity are now subject to regulation by the state.

Finally, compulsory vaccination treats the decision as to whether to be vaccinated or not as a decision that needs to be made on our behalf by others. Every problem in society is a technocratic problem for governments and experts to solve. This effectively infantilises the population, treating people as if they cannot be trusted to make responsible decisions. And yet democracy is predicated on the principle of popular sovereignty, the idea that the government is elected by and accountable to the people. We can be trusted to determine who will govern us but not fundamental questions of our own bodily integrity.

Many will agree with compulsory vaccination, but this sets a precedent of government control which is unlikely to stop with vaccination.


  1. Let them do what they want at their peril. We thought PF had no ears but these are proving to be worse in their few months in power. It’s a shame.

  2. No one can determine my personal rights and interests without my consent. What is sacred to day when just yesterday there was song of PF carrying a very bad human rights record. Force me to do something against my consent and i will immediately become suspicious.

  3. Cretinism is a very serious mental disorder. To get rid of cretinism the Zambian government decided to mandate that all salt sold in Zambia must have iodine. After 10 years the number of cretins and adults with thyroid disorders reduced drastically and still remains insignificant, except in areas where people persist in using uniodated salt, illegally.

    Lawyers and rights groups can argue that the government should not force a citizen what food to put in his body. Yet, it was realised that to prevent cretinism, because parents preferred animal salt or local salt with no iodine, something drastic had to be done. By law now, it is illegal to sell salt with no iodine.

    Therefore, the government overrode citizens’ right to chose what to put in their bodies.

    What of seat belts and…

    • Ba Lumbwe supposing I was to argue like this: I can protest and avoid the iodised salt by not eating salted food altogether. Would I be breaking the law? I haven’t seen in full your point about seat belts but we know where it is going. I could stop going into vehicles that by law demand seatbelts and restrict my travel to trains and motorbikes, would I be breaking any law? Let me now stretch the argument to health. Would I be charged for spreading the infection if I didn’t take the anti-TB vaccine then contracted TB and passed it on to my neighbourhood?

  4. Politicians are one of the worst Human beings God ever created;;; All they do is cause confusion, instead of being supportive, constructive AND UNITED when it comes to serious GLOABL ISSUES.

  5. And yet you take arvs everyday without questions. This is science. Let it be a must to get vaccinated. Those that refuse should be locked upaway from society. Myself I am going for booster jab soon

  6. Vaccinations can be mandatory. Every child born is vaccinated against polio, tetanus and measles. Fred you have had BCG vaccine against TB. What is the problem? Pregnant mothers are vaccinated against rubella. Any problems? Fred Membe sit down or go outside and play with the other children.

  7. Fred Membe, so you had no underfive card? People are smoking and drinking all sorts of liquor. These are potent poisons and you’re not protesting. Get vaccinated you f00l!

  8. Upnd wants to take attention away from the campaign promises. Upnd wants to bring in all these issues so that people can focus on these useless issues and stop talking about campaign promises.

  9. @ Chishimba comment 3. It is NOT illegal to buy salt without iodine in Zambia, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
    The government took an action to prevent cretinism and it’s recommendable. Similarly, the government mandates that our water has chlorine in it, recommendable.
    Does it then mean it is illegal to drink water without chlorine, or to eat kosher salt? Of course not.
    I am vaccinated and against the idea of making vaccines mandatory as it is indeed, a violation of human right.

    • How is it a violation of human rights? Wouldn’t someone say if you don’t vaccinate and you infect someone you are violating that person’s rights?

  10. Rights are not absolute. Individual rights cannot override community rights in times of war or pandemics. Right now, the majority of countries in the world are curtailing those UN human rights. Freedom of movement has been curtailed within countries and across international borders. Australia and China, two countries on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, quarantined cities and entire states/provinces. Even in normal times, Doctors and other health workers are mandated to be vaccinated against a number of conditions so that they don’t infect patients. Your favourite Cuba is jabbing all her citizens.

    • Individual rights are usually associated with capitalists. Socialists put the community’s rights above the individual. That is why the communists wouldn’t allow one person to be too rich when the majority are poor. A person who halts the progress of the majority because he wants to further his rights will be locked out of the socialist community. What are Africans naturally speaking? Capitalists or socialists?

  11. This Mmembe is looking for relevance under the veil of knowing human rights!! Human rights include the right to life!! The government can mandate that anybody entering government offices should have chosen to be vaccinated. This is not mandating Covid vaccinations. However those who choose not to be vaccinated should not enter government offices and some public places. Why should one’s right to choose death override the rights of many people who choose life. A government informed by global science on what to do to avoid severe Covid has a responsibility to safeguard its citizens. Those citizens who don’t accept the government position, can do so in their private spheres but not in public spheres!! Government can mandate evidence of Covid vaccination certificate in government offices and…

  12. Now imagine…just for one minute if it was PF in government and forcing people to get vaccinated and UPND in opposition…just imagine the noise and outcry…am sure HH was going to advocate for massive protests and violence against PF….this would have been perfect time for HH to dare the Police and get arrested…but now since he’s in Office everything is ok….Corruption is now a normal thing…hunger is normal, lack of Jobs is normal..Nepotism is normal under HH

  13. I have a problem with politicians. Dr Mmembe is doing and saying exactly the same things the then opposition Upnd used to. Now they are in power they are doing and saying exactly what the PF as goverment used to do. Someone I know as we drunk at one club complained to me that the PF was lying to people about Covid19. It didn’t exist and the guy (Dr Kennedy Malama) is just a PF cadre, they should appoint professional people to do these jobs. I didn’t see any point to argue with him.

  14. Mandatory vaccination natukana..Go and take the jab and let those that dont want be…We all have our rights dont force me chapwaa…Read the bill of rights article 33

  15. Why are we here? Because our parents took us to underfive clinic to get polio, whooping cough, measles, tetanus and TB vaccines. These vaccines protected you from common childhood illnesses that take lives of millions of children. You rush to take ARv and pen injections when you contract Kaswende and you refuse simple vaccines. How dumb can you ever be?

  16. Zambia is a country with 50% living below the poverty line. Not everybody can even afford the masks that Europe was handing out freely to everybody without discrimination. Quality of life and services in the EU cannot be compared to those prevailing in Zambia. The EU is introducing mandatory vaccinations for all inhabitants on its territory. You will have to stay in your house if you opt not to get vaccinated. They have the resources and have even donated resources to aid Africa in the fight against COVID. Then comes the Zambian, where even panadol is expired, and is boasting that he will not get vaccinated. It is against his rights. Then stay home and do not mingle with the vaccinated. You are compromising yourself, no?

  17. Meembe you got mandatory vaccinated against polio, tb, etc. What are you talking about? Government has responsibility to protect the general population

  18. Since when did communists focus on individual rights? And what is a right?
    Ba Mmembe is really confused about political ideology.
    He seems to forget he didn’t cry for his rights when he enrolled for school in the 70s and the doctor arrived to give him small pox, polio and TB vaccines. Not getting a TB vaccine would have endangered his classmates and no socialist would have allowed that to happen.

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