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COVID-19

Compulsory vaccination for public workers is lawful: Raj

July 16, 2021 12:13 pm

The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission says amendments to the law requiring mandatory vaccination of civil servants and the private sector employers and employees is lawful.

Commission Director Ashwin Raj says this is under the Health and Safety (General Workplace Conditions) (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

Raj says it is consistent with the human rights obligations of the State under the Fijian Constitution, and it does not constitute a derogation of the constitutional right to freedom from scientific or medical treatment or procedures without an order of the court or without his or her informed consent under section 11(3) of the Fijian Constitution.

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He says the amendments to the law do not take away the constitutional right to informed consent.

The Director of Human Rights, however, says if individuals choose not to get vaccinated, they are effectively forfeiting their right to economic participation and equally inviting fair discrimination on the basis of health.

Raj has also objected to the view of former Human Rights Commissioner Imrana Jalal who has said that people can exercise the right not to get vaccinated, which is constitutionally protected, and the State is wrong to criminalize it.

Ray says the State has not criminalized the conscious act of refusing to provide consent for the jab.

He says it is unfortunate that Jalal has chosen to label the legislative amendments as criminalizing an individual’s decision to refuse the jab.

Raj adds nowhere in the Public Health Act or the Health and Safety (General Workplace Conditions) (Amendment) Regulations does it say that it is a criminal offence to refuse the vaccine.

He says it’s also reckless and incorrect to claim that the “Government is forcing medical personnel to give the jab” as claimed by the Opposition Member of Parliament Lynda Tabuya on social media.

Consent is still required by the medical professionals administering the vaccine prior to one receiving the vaccination.

Raj adds given that Fiji’s test positivity for COVID-19 has way surpassed the World Health Organization’s threshold of five percent, section 6(5)(c) of the Fijian Constitution may be invoked by the State when weighing the overriding right to health against the right to economic participation, or when weighing the interests of the individual against that of a community.

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