Human Rights Watch Denounces Vaccine Mandate in Kenya

A Maasai woman is inoculated with a Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Oltepesi Dispensary in Kajiado, Kenya, on September 9, 2021. (Photo by Patrick Meinhardt / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK MEINHARDT/AFP via Getty Images)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday urged Kenyan government authorities to drop a mandate requiring anyone seeking government services in Kenya to show proof of Chinese coronavirus vaccination, arguing the system undermines “basic rights.”

Starting December 21, Kenya’s government will require any person seeking government services in the East African nation to provide proof of having received a full series of a Chinese coronavirus vaccine before they are allowed to partake in public services.

“The services affected will include public transportation, education, immigration, hospitals, and prison visitation. Proof of vaccination will also be mandatory for entering national parks, hotels, and restaurants,” HRW reported.

Just ten percent of adults in Kenya were vaccinated against the Chinese coronavirus by late November according to Kenyan Health Ministry data. Given this statistic, Kenya’s vaccine requirement for public services “risks violating the rights to work, health, education, and social security for millions of Kenyans,” HRW argued December 3.

“[T]he government’s new measures could leave millions of Kenyans unable to get essential government services,” Adi Radhakrishnan, an HRW Africa research fellow, said Monday.

Kenyan Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe did not disclose how Kenyan government authorities planned to enforce the vaccine mandate when he announced the measure on November 21. The edict does not provide an option for Kenyans to seek alternative methods to vaccination, such as coronavirus testing, nor does it address people ineligible for vaccination due to medical or religious reasons.

“As much as we will enforce these measures, accountability on implementing these measures will lie on individuals,” Kagwe told reporters on November 21 when asked for further details about the vaccine mandate’s rollout.

HRW decried Kenya’s vaccine mandate on Monday in large part because it said the country has yet to receive a sufficient supply of Chinese coronavirus vaccines. While this vaccine “inequity” remains in place, HRW argued, a vaccine requirement by Kenya’s government appears unjust. HRW has rarely addressed the numerous examples of Chinese coronavirus vaccine mandates in countries around the globe where such vaccine supplies are plentiful. The human rights advocacy organization did criticize a Chinese coronavirus mandate in Cambodia in October for failing to provide “training on the new restrictions” in conjunction with the compulsory immunization requirement.

Radhakrishnan told HRW on December 3 he believed vaccine mandates may be “useful” as long as they are implemented according to social mores deemed acceptable by the public health establishment.

“Although vaccine mandates may be useful, they ought to be implemented within a broader public health strategy that emphasizes accessibility of vaccines and other preventive measures for Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus],” he opined.

“A vaccine mandate should not arbitrarily create undue burdens for any population group, or disproportionately infringe on human rights,” the HRW fellow added.


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