Parliament has moved towards mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for its staff, contractors and stakeholders, saying those who have not received the jab will not be allowed access to the premises.
The decision comes days after Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda announced government’s intention to subject frontline civil servants to mandatory Covid-19 vaccination from January 2022.
In an internal memorandum dated December 20 2021, Clerk of Parliament Fiona Kalemba said unvaccinated employees will be required to produce a negative test result from Community Health Surveillance Unit (CHSU) at their own cost.
She said: “The validity of the test results will be 48 hours for a rapid antigen test and 72 hours for the PCR test. At expiry of the period, and if one has to access the precincts, then a new test result will have to be presented.
“Members of staff that have not submitted vaccination details will be assumed that they are on absence without leave.”
Kalemba said to ensure authenticity of test results and vaccination details, Parliament will in due course be verifying with the Ministry of Health the validity of the certificates.
She added that the measures will apply to all staff, contractors and other stakeholders.
Said Kalemba: “So far, a list of staff that have submitted their vaccination details will be made available at all access gates to the Parliament precincts.”
Asked if Parliament move means all employers must make vaccination mandatory, Deputy Minister of Labour Vera Kamtukule on Tuesday said the Employment Act speaks against discriminating workers based on their beliefs, but employees have a responsibility to protect others.
She said: “At the moment, according to the Ministry of Health, vaccination remains voluntary and so, until that ministry tells us otherwise, that’s what remains.
“What is key is for us to appreciate the measures that different institutions are taking, in supporting the government’s efforts in getting as many people to be vaccinated, because until that is done, we will never contain Covid-19.”
The Society of Medical Doctors (SMD) has since hailed Parliament for taking such measures and encouraged other institutions to do the same.
SMD president Dr. Victor Mithi on Tuesday said institutions needed to follow what Parliament has done, observing, if many institutions are overwhelmed by the pandemic, it will lower production which will negatively affect the country.
He said: “We have to protect our people and those that cannot protect themselves ought to be guided on the best way.
“You can see that they are not making the vaccine mandatory, but they are trying to take an initiative that will protect those that are not ready to protect themselves.”
But Malawi Law Society president Patrick Mpaka recently said compulsory vaccination interferes with the human rights contained in Section 21 of the Constitution.
He said if refusal to get vaccines is based on a belief, then it goes beyond privacy rights, but premises on freedom of conscience and belief protected in Section 33 and entrenched in Section 45 of the Constitution.
Mpaka said: “However, not every interference with the right to privacy is automatically illegal. The legality depends on several factors listed in Section 44(1) of the Constitution.
“In the Czech Republic, for example, children undergo mandatory vaccination for several diseases. If parents do not comply with this policy, they are fined and the children cannot attend pre-school.”
He said although the European Court of Human Rights agreed with the applicants that this policy interfered with their right to private life, the court thought that this interference was justifiable.
A study by the University of Malawi’s Centre for Social Research study advices that making the vaccines compulsory would boost their uptake.n