Is access to vaccine a human right?
Access to a vaccine is a human rights which is protected internationally and locally under the right to health and by extension the right to life. When people’s health is compromised it means their right to life is also compromised.
What does this right entail?
It entails the following:
- Accessibility – the vaccine must be available for all people regardless of status
- Affordability – as a public good, it must be affordable and most preferably free for all. No one must fail to access the vaccine because of cost
- Safety – the state must take all measures including independent research to ensure the safety of the vaccine.
- Effectiveness – the state must take all measures including independent research to ensure that the vaccine is effective.
- Timeousness – the vaccine must be made accessible without delay
- Information– the state must ensure the availability of accurate information on the vaccine and the vaccination programme in all official languages to the public
Where do I find this right?
Locally it is found in the Constitution of Zimbabwe under section 29 and 76. Internationally it is found in a number of instruments for example under the African human rights system it is in Article 16 of the African Charter on Human and People’s rights (ACHPR), in the United Nations human rights systems it is found under Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), and Article 25 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
What does the law say?
Everyone has the right to adequate health care. Everyone means every person irrespective of one’s status. Health care means the procurement and provision of the health services which should be adequate, accessible and affordable. Availability and accessibility of a safe vaccine for Covid 19 is a right to health.
Who should provide the right to health?
The State and all its agencies must provide the right to health within its available resources.
What do I do if the State fails to provide for the right to health?
Individuals or/and groups can take the State to court and force the government to take up its responsibilities. People can also approach the international human rights bodies charged with the protection, promotion and fulfilment of human rights directly or through human rights organisations. Demand your right. Other forms of peaceful protests and petitioning can also be used to draw attention to the cause.
How do I approach the courts or the international human rights bodies?
Get in touch with your lawyer or any human rights organisation for proper legal advice. ZimRights has already taken the issue of access to safe and effective vaccine with the courts in Zimbabwe.
What else can I do to support the campaign for a safe and effective vaccine?
You can begin by sharing this important information with your family and friends. Find a local action group and participate in the campaign. Call you Member of Parliament and ask them to play their part in protecting your right to health.