The Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius recently touted the success of a COVID-19 vaccination program that, as of Monday, had reached 60% of all adults. The tourism board welcomed the news, calling it a milestone in the effort to reach herd immunity and “allowing the country to reopen to international travel, to get tourism up and running again.”
The vaccination success comes in stark contrast to the overall low vaccination rates among African nations, a group that includes the comparatively wealthy Mauritius. But the island nation also is getting some scrutiny from human rights campaigners concerned about how COVID vaccination may be enforced in the future.
New regulations under the Quarantine Act were introduced in June, according to Amnesty International. And they call for mandatory vaccination in Mauritius with penalties that would include a possible 5-year jail term for failing to comply.
Amnesty said it believes, in general, that the World Health Organization recommendation to keep the vaccine voluntary is a better pathway toward ending the pandemic. There also are circumstances in which mandatory vaccination might make sense, and the human rights NGO issued guidelines on how such policies might be crafted.
“Governments must not introduce blanket mandatory vaccine policies and must ensure that no one is forced to receive vaccination without their consent,” the organization said. “At the same time, Amnesty International does recognize that several international instruments allow for limitations on rights for the sake of public health, provided these include safeguards.”
Amnesty called on Mauritian authorities to abide by the Siracusa Principles, a set of standards that require such a policy to be legitimate and, among other things, based on science and well-communicated with those affected. It also calls for time limits on such policies and vigilance against any discrimination when enforcing them.
“Amnesty International strongly opposes the use of threats or any other punitive sanctions against people who refuse vaccination,” the NGO said. “Amnesty International strongly believes that no criminal sanctions should be levelled against those who do not comply.”