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Analysis: Consequences of Covid-19 vaccine policy – why mandates, passports and restrictions may cause more harm than good

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A new analysis in the British Medical Journal BMJ by Kevin Bardosh et al. is well written and summarizes current societal actions and reactions to Covid vaccines.

Mandatory Covid-19 vaccine policies have been used worldwide during the pandemic to increase vaccination rates. But these policies have provoked considerable social and political resistance, suggesting that they have unintended harmful consequences and may not be ethical, scientifically justified, and effective.

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The analysis outlines a comprehensive set of hypotheses for why current Covid-19 vaccine policies may prove counterproductive and damaging to public health.

The author’s framework synthesizes insights from behavioral psychology (reactance, cognitive dissonance, stigma, and distrust), politics and law (effects on civil liberties, polarization, and global governance), socio-economics (effects on inequality, health system capacity, and social wellbeing) and the integrity of science and public health (the erosion of public health ethics and regulatory oversight).

The authors of the analysis strongly suggest that mandatory Covid-19 vaccine policies have had damaging effects on public trust, vaccine confidence, political polarization, human rights, inequities, and social wellbeing.

Bardosh et al. question the effectiveness and consequences of coercive vaccination policy in pandemic response and urge the research community and policymakers to return to non-discriminatory, trust-based public health approaches.

From the article:

“These vaccine policies have largely been framed as offering ‘benefits’ (freedoms) for those with a full COVID- 19 vaccination series, but a sizeable proportion of people view conditioning access to health, work, travel, and social activities on Covid-19 vaccination status as inherently punitive, discriminatory and coercive.”

“Leveraging stigma as a public health strategy, regardless of whether or not individuals are opposed to vaccines, is likely to be ineffective at promoting vaccine uptake.”

“Vaccine passports risk enshrining discrimination based on perceived health status into law, undermining many rights of healthy individuals: indeed, unvaccinated but previously infected people may generally be at less risk of infection (and severe outcomes) than doubly vaccinated but infection-naïve individuals.”

“It is clear that many vaccinated people did so because of the serious consequences of refusal… We should pause to consider how current policies… sets a precedent for the erosion of informed consent into the future…”

“While public support consolidated behind these policies in many countries, we should acknowledge that ethical frameworks were designed to ensure that rights and liberties are respected even during public health emergencies.”

Download the analysis here.

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