If there was ever an award for a marketing fiasco or PR job gone bad, then the Covid Vaccine had to be in there with a shout. From the outset, the vaccines have been beleaguered with conspiracy theories ranging from ridiculous to completely insane. 5G cell towers, tracking devices, and genetic engineering to make us all sterile. The conspiracies flourished as quickly as the vaccines were developed.
On its release, the vaccines suffered poor uptake, with even medical staff in some cities in the US refusing to be vaccinated. Healthcare tried to come to the rescue, countering misinformation and launching campaigns where doctors, nurses, and prominent public figures showed themselves being vaccinated to increase public confidence.
It worked, but only marginally, aided to no small extent by the fact that, as the weeks progressed, no one grew horns or mysteriously morphed into a mutant. The vaccine was gradually establishing itself as safe.
The vaccines also worked, in fact, all the covid vaccines did, and miraculously and fortunately, with very few side effects, given the limited development and testing of the products. All the vaccines severely reduce the incidence of serious covid. Yet, despite all the efforts to the contrary, resistance to the vaccines continues.
The “why” isn’t really difficult to figure out and we may, in a telling few weeks of quiet announcements by the FDA, the CDC, and the European council, have finally overcome the last obstacle to widespread acceptance.
Vaccinate, or else!
You cannot effectively roll out a public health vaccination campaign at gunpoint. Pandemic or no pandemic. Enforcing the covid vaccine as mandatory was never clearly dealt with in the public mind, with no government coming out directly and saying it was to be mandatory. In the same breath, no government has openly decried enforced vaccination as an option.
The public has been left in limbo, to wonder as to the true narrative, and uncertainty, as we know, breeds mistrust. It also serves as compost for the germination of conspiracy theories. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the case of the covid vaccine.
Vaccine or Immunity passports simply fuelled the flames even further. It’s one thing to say the vaccine is not mandatory, quite another if you’re discriminating against those that have chosen not to be vaccinated. Need a job? Get vaccinated. Want to fly? Get vaccinated. Sorry sir, this restaurant only serves vaccinated people.
The vaccine debate has rapidly moved away from the field of medicine to a question of human rights, commercialism, and political control. There seemed to be no clear path to de-escalating the debate until now, and it has come from a surprising source. A legal decision handed down by the Commission of Europe has seriously altered the covid vaccine’s fortunes for the better.
Surprisingly, it received very little attention in mainstream media. We’ll examine the European announcement first and then look at current American Federal Law.
What the European Council Decided
On the 27th of January this year, the European Parliamentary Assembly issued Resolution 2361 (2021) with very little fanfare. This important document entitled Covid-19 vaccines: ethical, legal, and practical considerations states, amongst other guidelines, the following.
7.3 with respect to ensuring high vaccine uptake:
7.3.1 ensure that citizens are informed that the vaccination is NOT mandatory and that no one is politically, socially, or otherwise pressured to get themselves vaccinated if they do not wish to do so themselves;
7.3.2 ensure that no one is discriminated against for not having been vaccinated, due to possible health risks or not wanting to be vaccinated;
7.3.3 take early effective measures to counter misinformation, disinformation and hesitancy regarding Covid-19 vaccines;
7.3.4 distribute transparent information on the safety and possible side effects of vaccines, working with and regulating social media platforms to prevent the spread of misinformation;
7.3.5 communicate transparently the contents of contracts with vaccine producers and make them publicly available for parliamentary and public scrutiny;
7.3.6 collaborate with non-governmental organisations and/or other local efforts to reach out to marginalised groups;
7.3.7 engage with local communities in developing and implementing tailored strategies to support vaccine uptake;https://medika.life/media/0d266c291981d75e381497e2e38f67d2
You can read the resolution in full by following the linked document above. This document effectively deplatforms individuals who argue against the vaccine, claiming it is being enforced. It is illegal to do so within the European Union. Interestingly, this document also serves to seriously throw into doubt the legality of Vaccine Passports, as they serve as discriminatory mechanisms.
Unbeknown to most Americans, they enjoy exactly the same protection.
Where American stands
It turns out American legislators have got your back on this one and the Federal law is emphatic. Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) medications are not compulsory and your decision not to partake in vaccination, cannot be used to discriminate against you.
Dr. Amanda Cohn, the executive secretary of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, was asked if Covid-19 vaccination can be required, Her answer was emphatic.
“ under an EUA, “vaccines are not allowed to be mandatory. So, early in this vaccination phase, individuals will have to be consented and they won’t be able to be mandatory.” Cohn later affirmed that this prohibition on requiring the vaccines applies to organizations, including hospitals.”
The EUAs for both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require fact sheets be given to vaccination providers and recipients. These fact sheets make clear that getting the vaccine is optional. For example, the one for recipients states that
“It is your choice to receive or not receive the Covid-19 Vaccine,” and if “you decide to not receive it, it will not change your standard of medical care.”
This means that an organization will likely be at odds with federal law if it requires its employees, students, or other members to get a Covid-19 vaccine that is being distributed under EUA.
State law often prohibits retaliating against an employee for refusing to participate in a violation of federal law. Organizations that require Covid-19 vaccination in violation of federal law may face lawsuits under these state laws, not only to block the policy, but also for damages and attorneys’ fees. Such potentially costly lawsuits can be avoided by refraining from adopting policies that require vaccination or penalize members for choosing not to be vaccinated.
Organizations are free to encourage vaccinations through internal communications, educational events, and other measures to urge employees to be vaccinated. They can take these measures so long as:
- they are not viewed as coercive,
- the organization makes clear the decision regarding whether to receive the vaccine is voluntary, and
- the measures comply with the requirements in the EUAs and the related regulations for these products.
Changing the public mindset matters
It’s time for countries and their marketing arms focusing on vaccination to get on board with the laws that regulate the vaccination of people with EUA products. Any avenues that provide relief from the sea of misinformation and attacks the vaccines are continuously subjected to, need to be fully explored to their conclusion.
Transparency is central to regaining trust and explaining to a skeptical public that they are in fact being offered a choice would encourage people to accept the vaccine. Enforcement, coercion, or the appearance of the removal of choice imply there is another agenda. There isn’t, but until we get the marketing right, the PR disaster will simply continue, and in all probability worsen.
Now is the ideal time. Be honest, be open and be forthcoming about freedom of choice. Law enshrines this right and it may be the biggest ally vaccines possess in terms of regaining public trust. It’s time to use it.