Covid-19: Rights Commission flags firms over forced jabs

By Nkosana Dlamini

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has urged local firms to abandon the habit of forcing employees and clients to first get vaccinated against Covid-19 before they could be allowed back to work or access to their premises.

Zimbabwe has pulled all the stops to achieve herd immunity by end of this year.

But this has come at a personal cost for some citizens who find themselves marshalled to vaccination centres against both their health conditions and religious beliefs.

As part of measures to increase vaccine uptake, both government and corporates have elected to withdraw Covid-19 allowances for employees and further sent unvaccinated staff on forced leave.

The country’s rights commission finds this as a direct violation of citizens’ rights.

“The Commission acknowledges the initiative of testing and vaccinating frontline workers.

“However, a number of media platforms have raised concerns of corporations directly coercing employees to undergo vaccination, disregarding the employees’ freedom of choice, integrity of the person, right to dignity and existence of underlying medical conditions.

“Some public institutions and private companies are allegedly prohibiting unvaccinated employees access to their premises or workstations and others are purportedly having their salaries deducted,” said ZHRC in a Tuesday statement.

The commission urged authorities to find persuasive means through which citizens can take up vaccination willingly.

Said the rights body, “While the ZHRC is aware that vaccination is for the general protection of the individual’s rights to health and life, the GoZ (Government of Zimbabwe) is urged to continue encouraging citizens to consider being vaccinated since vaccination is both a personal and national responsibility for the protection of personal health as well as the health of others.

“It is the duty of the GoZ to balance the need for increased vaccination so as to reach herd immunity with freedom of choice.

“The GoZ has taken a commendable policy position to allow free choice by individuals with regards to uptake of the Covid-19 vaccines.

“It is therefore important for all stakeholders to avoid any coercive measures that directly or indirectly compel people to get vaccinated against their choice.

“It is important to be guided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) guiding principles which posit that vaccination programmes must not be made compulsory but should be a matter of choice.”

Zimbabwe’s vaccination initiative, hailed as commendable by the world, started at a snail’s pace but has accelerated in the recent past with government reporting that as of 2nd August, 2021, a total of 1 674 710 people had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 798 880 their second dose across the country.

The country battles a shattering Covid-19 strain that has propelled cases to a cumulative 110 855 coupled with 3 635 – as at 2 August, 2021 – since outbreak March last year.