The Network for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination fully supports the measures proposed by the Commission for Infectious Diseases in the area of prevention of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
As organizations dedicated to the protection of human rights, we believe that stricter measures to ensure greater coverage of immunization are inevitable if we aim to protect the life and health of people. We remind you that individual rights can and should be subject to restriction when there is a higher value behind the purpose of the restriction, as in the case of protection of the health and life of all. On the contrary, the failure of the authorities to take measures to protect the population of Covid-19 may, in certain circumstances, be considered a violation of human rights. Mandatory vaccination is a necessary measure given the serious effect of global disinformation campaigns that produce distrust of science and medical authorities and directly affect the small number of vaccinated. The duty to protect and promote our own health and the health of others is the highest civic obligation. According to Article 39 of the Constitution of the Republic of North Macedonia, every citizen is guaranteed the right to health care, and the citizen has the right and duty to protect and promote their own health and the health of others. Compulsory vaccination, which is provided by the Law on Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases, can at no time be suspected of being contrary to the Constitution and fundamental human rights and freedoms. Pursuant to Article 33 paragraph 7 of this Law, the Minister, upon the proposal of the Commission for Infectious Diseases, may determine vaccination for other infectious diseases. Hence, the Network for Protection against Discrimination considers that it is justified by law to oblige the citizens to vaccination against diseases whose prevention is in the interest of the society. We live in a pandemic, where all relevant available and scientifically based data suggest that vaccination against Covid-19 is in the interest of preserving public health and is a legitimate goal of restricting human rights.
Everyone has the right to protection and health in the workplace. That is why we believe that the Commission should not differentiate between public and private sector workers when creating measures. Second, the resistance expressed by workers’ representatives indicates the need for a broad social and professional discussion that will include all relevant factors (trade unions and citizens’ associations) and competent institutions (Commission for Infectious Diseases, Ministry of Health, State Labor Inspectorate), MLSP, Commission for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination). The absence of such a dialogue can mostly affect the workers, who will suffer the most from the harmful consequences of the disagreements of the social actors, in a way that will discourage them from getting vaccinated and thus protecting themselves from Covid-19 and its aftermath.
These measures are also within the framework of international law and the practice of protection of human rights. According to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case Vavřička and Others v. the Czech Republic Compulsory vaccination of children is not a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms but is necessary in a democratic society. Mandatory vaccination restricts the right to private life (Article 8 of the ECHR) which may be restricted for the protection of public health. The Court in the judgment addresses the proportionality of the measure and sets a wide margin of discretion for states to decide best placed to take appropriate measures to protect public health. The measure is considered proportionate, with a legitimate aim, protection of the population from diseases. In the judging, it is important to consider the question of whether there is an urgent social need, and given the fact that COVID-19 is still a serious threat to public health despite the low percentage of vaccinated, it can be easily concluded that such a need exists. The judgment emphasizes that vaccination is a widely accepted, effective and efficient way of protecting the health and that due to the reduction in the number of voluntarily vaccinated countries take more restrictive measures to provide vaccination as mandatory vaccination followed by penalties or conditional enjoyment of other vaccination rights. In the case of the French firefighters against France (Abgrall and 671 Others v. France 41950/21), which they asked the ECtHR to suspend the obligation to vaccinate, as well as any related measures that could be taken and that could be prohibited the ECtHR rejected the request because it considered it outside the scope of Rule 39, according to which the court may adopt interim measures, such as urgent measures in order to protect rights. The Court emphasized that Rule 39 applies only in cases where one faces a real risk of irreversible damage.
At the national level, the Commission for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination in July this year adopted a stance according to which the mandatory vaccination of children as a condition for enrollment in primary education does not constitute discrimination on any grounds. The Commission adopted a general recommendation stating that laws, measures, recommendations and other relevant acts aimed at preventing, treating and controlling the situation of the epidemic, and other diseases do not constitute a violation of the right to privacy of the individual, their personal and family life and of dignity and reputation.
For all the above reasons, the Network for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination considers such measures necessary; they do not constitute discrimination because the protection of public health is a legitimate goal.
—————————————————22 November 2021