World News

Mandatory Covid jabs in Malawi ‘violate human rights’, say civil society groups

Civil rights groups in Malawi have cautioned the government on its decision to make the Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for frontline workers.

From January, it will be compulsory for public sector workers, including healthcare staff, police and teachers, as well as journalists, to be vaccinated, after an announcement by Malawi’s health minister, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, last week.

The government believes the measure will help reduce the spread of the Omicron variant in the country.

“Accumulating data continues to indicate that the majority of those being admitted to our emergency treatment units or losing their lives to Covid-19 have not been vaccinated,” Chiponda said.

As of Wednesday, Malawi had registered 66,166 Covid-19 cases and more than 2,300 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 1.6m vaccine doses have been administered.

However, the move has been met with concern by civil rights groups.

In a press statement, the Malawi Human Rights Commission said the directive violated the principle that medical interventions are a person’s free choice.

“The commission is not in support of the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination as it violates fundamental human rights as guaranteed by the constitution of the republic of Malawi and other international instruments, even if the issue of collective or public rights is brought into the equation,” read the statement.

Sylvester Namiwa, the executive director at the Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives, said mandatory jabs were not justified in Malawi.

“Our decisions should be based on scientific knowledge. We understand there is Covid-19, but let’s learn to live with the disease as we have done with other diseases such as HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and diabetes,” said Namiwa.

Some have said the timing of the announcement was ill-advised. “The timing of these measures is not right. Many Malawians are already hesitant to get vaccinated, and the measures have been announced at a time the administration has lost popularity due to the rising cost of living and hence forcing people to get vaccinated would make the situation volatile,” said Moses Chabuka, executive director at Neno Active Youth in Development.

In a national address on Tuesday, Malawi’s president, Lazarus Chakwera, said intensifying vaccination efforts were part of the country’s socioeconomic recovery plan.

“To recover the ground the economy has lost to the pandemic, we have to stop the pandemic in its tracks,” said Chakwera.


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