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Deputy health minister says the unvaccinated should not be allowed to expose vaccinated groups to Covid-19

Deputy minister of health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo says the rights of the collective will trump those of individuals when it comes to mandatory vaccinations. File Photo.
Deputy minister of health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo says the rights of the collective will trump those of individuals when it comes to mandatory vaccinations. File Photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Deputy health minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo says the rights of individuals not to get vaccinated for Covid-19 will be trumped by the rights of a collective who choose vaccination. 

Dhlomo was responding to questions from MPs during a media briefing about the Omicron variant on Wednesday.

This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa's national address on Sunday in which he said the government was engaging stakeholders on introducing mandatory vaccinations for access to workplaces and public events. 

Dhlomo said while individuals can choose not to get vaccinated, they should not be allowed to expose a majority of vaccinated people to Covid-19. 

“A collective right becomes superior to an individual right. We will not deny you to stay at home if you so wish but you can't force yourself into a taxi of 10 other people who are vaccinated if you refuse to vaccinate but you want to travel with them to work.

“You may find a space for yourself somewhere alone because while you insist on your individual right not to vaccinate, you must also be ready to protect the collective rights of many other people,” he said.

Last month, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) found that mandatory Covid-19 vaccination would not necessarily be a human rights infringement.

The commission said a general law compelling South Africans to get vaccinated would be constitutionally sound under the right circumstances. However, it called on the government to explore all options to encourage voluntary vaccination first.

“The constitution protects several individual rights. These include the right to health, life, freedom of religion, a healthy environment and freedom and security of person. The right of security in and control over one’s body and the right not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without one’s informed consent are included.

“Limitation is reasonable. However, the constitution does provide for the Bill of Rights to be subject to limitations: Therefore, the rights of individuals, save for non-derogable rights (such as the rights to life and human dignity) can be limited in terms of section 36 of the constitution, firstly, when the limitation of these rights is done in terms of a law of general application, that is, if the state passes a law that articulates a general compulsory Covid-19 vaccination regime. Secondly, to the extent that the limitation itself is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.

“This means it would be ‘constitutionally permissible’ to require people to vaccinate provided that this is done in accordance with the processes stipulated in the constitution,” it said.

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