Malta’s U-turn on Compulsory Vaccination for Travel

There are two things you should know before you read this article. 1) I am double jabbed with the Covid-19 vaccine, and 2) I am a strong believer that vaccines save lives.

Malta’s decision to insist that all people exiting and entering the country must be vaccinated against Covid-19 was an outrageous infringement on freedom of movement. After the European Commission intervened stating that this restriction was discriminatory, the Maltese government thankfully did a U-turn. The decision was welcomed by some but not everyone. I personally found the lack of shock at such a drastic measure demonstrated a worrying acceptance for government control over our right to travel freely.

I am aware that there are compulsory vaccinations to enter some countries, for example the yellow fever vaccine is mandatory if you wish you travel to Ghana. However, there are two major reasons why I believe this argument cannot be used for mandatory Covid-19 vaccination.

Firstly, Yellow Fever kills approximately 15% of those who suffer from the disease. This is compared to Covid-19 death rate, which is estimated to be between 0.5 and 1%. It is true that coronavirus is a dreadful disease and we are right to take steps to prevent the spread. However, we should also not dismiss the fact that the death rate from this virus is relatively low. In March 2020, the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (a committee made up of medical professors) decided to remove Covid-19 from the High Consequence Infectious Disease list as the mortality rates are low overall. Yet there are many people who seem to believe that if their elderly relative were to catch the virus then death would be inevitable; this is simply not the case. For a disease that is unlikely to kill 99% of those who catch the virus, I find it difficult to justify the decision to make the vaccine a prerequisite for citizens to enter and exit their own country freely.

For a lot of people, not taking the vaccine is what is unjustifiable: refusing the vaccine is a selfish act and shows an apathetic attitude towards society’s vulnerable. However, most of our elderly and vulnerable citizens have chosen to be vaccinated and are now significantly less likely to die from the infection. In the US it is now estimated that between 98% to 99% of people dying from Covid-19 are those who are unvaccinated. If the people who are most likely to die from the virus are protected by vaccination, why should young, healthy people be coerced into taking a vaccine which has yet to be subjected to long-term testing? You may argue that it is necessary so that the virus doesn’t develop new variants, however the World Health Organisation does not seem overly concerned about this issue, stating that: “In the event that any of these vaccines prove to be less effective against one or more variants, it will be possible to change the composition of the vaccines to protect against these variants”.

Those who take the usual mandatory vaccines to travel to countries with deadly diseases are able to make the decision based on access to long-term research from which they can make an informed decision. With vaccine manufacturers being immune to lawsuits if long-term issues were to arise, it is understandable that some young and fit people would rather not take a new-to-the-market vaccine for a virus that statistically will do them no harm and does not pose a serious threat to the vulnerable who have received the vaccine.

I personally decided to take the vaccine and I am certainly not in the anti-vax camp. However, I also believe that before there is enough long term research for people to make fully informed choices, I do not see how we can accept a vaccine mandate in a free society. If we do not express outrage towards government’s decision over something as salient as autonomy over our own bodies, then we open the flood gates to government interference in other aspects of our life in the name of safety, and history shows us that this is a very slippery slope.


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