Please vaccinate because what you do your body does affect others, not just yourself
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At the beginning of the country’s vaccination roll-out on February 1, President Cyril Ramaphosa, in one of his many “family meetings”, told the nation that “nobody should be forced to take the vaccine”.
He went on to say that “there will be no repercussions for those who choose not to take the Covid19 vaccine”. Fast forward to today: a raging war is looming between some employers and employees over what is thought to be a life-saving jab.
There have been 7 million vaccinations so far, out of a population of about 60 million. More than 72 000 South Africans have perished since the outbreak of Covid-19.
The SA Human Rights Commission is reportedly inundated with complaints from workers and employers alike, seeking guidance on dealing with employees who do not want to take the vaccine.
The commission’s spokesperson, Buang Jones, has been quoted as saying employees – who include domestic workers and teachers – claimed they were being forced by their employers to take the vaccine or face being dismissed. On the other hand, said Jones, employers were also seeking advice on how to accommodate their anti-vaccine workers.
The commission reportedly says it is finding itself in uncharted waters between the rights of individual autonomy and the rights of the collective.
To mitigate the situation, Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi once proposed allowing employees to work from home if possible, isolating them in their own spaces in the office, or making it mandatory for them to wear an N95 mask in the workplace environment.
While the government, employers and employees grapple with the dynamics presented by the vaccination, let us remember that we are individuals within a society. What you do with or to your body does affect others, and not just yourself. Let us take account of the consequences of our actions on others, precisely because we are part of a community.
Importantly, a vaccine protects not only the individual to whom it is administered, but also the entire population. When the number of immunised individuals within a population reaches a critical threshold, herd immunity is conferred.