The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has cautioned the Tonse Alliance administration against introducing mandatory Covid-19 vaccination before addressing the social and economic hardships Malawians have been forced to bear due to rising cost of living.
CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa, in a statement issued on Monday, warns that the proposed policy on Covid-19 vaccination will face resistance from citizens who are weighed down by rising cost of living.
“It is important to highlight right at the onset that it is human nature to fight bad laws, therefore, Government should tread carefully in its bid to roll out the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination campaign at a time when Malawians are in need of an economic recovery plan, which is complete with measures to cushion marginalised and vulnerable people in our society. If the story carried in Nation on Sunday newspaper of 5th December 2021 is anything to go by, CDEDI fears for the worse that Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda has nodded to government’s wish to take the Covid-19 mandatory vaccination path,” reads the statement in part.
The proposal to introduce mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy comes barely three months after CDEDI, on September 9, 2021, wrote the Office of the Attorney General, seeking government’s position on mandatory Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
At the time, the human rights watchdog observed that mandatory Covid-19 vaccination was implemented by some private institutions, including both local and international organisations, and some government institutions.
However, despite formally writing back to CDEDI on September 10, 2021, to acknowledge receipt of the letter, CDEDI has not received any response from the AG regarding Malawi Government’s position on Covid-19 mandatory vaccination.
In his acknowledgement, Nyirenda assured that the letter was receiving the necessary attention, and that he would write again to give a concrete response on the matter after making what he termed as “necessary consultations” with relevant authorities directly involved in the matter.
As a reminder, CDEDI wrote the AG seeking Malawi Government’s position on the silent policy of ‘NO VACCINE NO WORK’ being implemented by some public and private institutions in the country. Earlier, CDEDI wrote the Minister of Health on the same, but never got a response.
Namiwa says his organization believes that citizens have a right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated.
“So while some citizens can freely choose life and go for the vaccine others can also choose life by deciding not to take the jab. It should not be a compulsory affair. Therefore, government needs to tread carefully on this matter to avoid trampling on the right to privacy, religion and conscious of the citizens. CDEDI is challenging President Chakwera to strive all the time to run an open, transparent and accountable government by commissioning a study similar to that done by the University of Malawis Centre for Social Research, that should provide scientific evidence that the jab is effective,” says the CDEDI boss in the statement.
He says while CDEDI appreciates the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic and efforts government is making to combat it, it has noted with concern that government has turned a blind eye on other killer diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and Aids, hypertension, diabetes, malnutrition and dehumanizing poverty.
“It is against this background that CDEDI is urging government to take a human rights approach when thinking about mandatory Covid-19 vaccination. Such emotive measures should be taken alongside tangible measures to recover the economy and cushion the poor to avoid a situation where those who will have been saved from the pandemic die needlessly due to unprecedented essential drug stock outs in our public health facilities, coupled with starvation and hunger due to the tough economic situation on the ground.
“Last but not the least, CDEDI urges government not to divert people’s attention from their cries for better living conditions brought by its poor economic policies by delving into emotive human rights issues such as mandatory vaccination,” concludes Namiwa.