"The government has no moral authority yet to mandate vaccination."
Requiring vaccination in workplaces, public transport and other sectors of the economy is a sensible move that will help contain the spread of COVID-19. But it is also a tinderbox that labor and consumer activists may exploit to advance their political and social agendas.
The vaccine mandate has already drawn massive protests and riots in Italy after Rome required health passports in workplaces. All Italian workers are required to have a so-called green pass before returning to their workplaces. The health card will serve as proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19 or a negative test for the virus. The absence of a green card will force an Italian worker to take an unpaid leave or pay a fine of between 400 and 1,500 euros.
Mandating vaccination is a tricky legal issue, unless there is a law that expressly states it. As it is, the Philippine government has no moral authority yet to mandate vaccination. Only about 20 percent of Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, either due to lack of supply or logistical problems in delivering the doses outside of the capital region.
The low vaccination rate in the Philippines is in stark contrast to that of Italy. The European nation, one of the hardest hit during the early stage of the pandemic, has fully inoculated more than 81 percent of people over the age of 12.
Here in the Philippines, the same debate over the vaccination mandate will erupt as soon as we reach herd immunity, or inoculating 70 percent of the population.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra this early cautioned that businessmen cannot turn down the employment of persons who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19. The Department of Labor and Employment also warned that it will sue employers who impose the policy of withholding the salary of unvaccinated employees.
The other side of the debate contends that companies that reject applicants who are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 cannot be accused of discrimination, saying firms have the prerogative to hire, train, promote and fire employees.
This debate will probably rage for some time. But the unvaccinated at the end of the day will be a liability in the fight against COVID-19.