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A mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy - Is there a place in New Zealand?

It has been nearly a year and a half since COVID-19 emerged in New Zealand. Although New Zealand has been fortunate enough to have little to no active community cases, it is still enduring the effects of COVID-19. The COVID-19 lockdown measures and continued strict border closures has caused the New Zealand economy as well as the New Zealand population’s mental health to deteriorate. Current COVID-19 management strategies are too costly and are detrimental to New Zealand. Therefore, to minimise the damage caused by COVID-19, it is crucial that New Zealand achieves herd immunity against COVID-19 through vaccinations. However, New Zealand may struggle to reach herd immunity due to the presence of vaccine hesitancy. Accordingly, the New Zealand Government may need to introduce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy to achieve herd immunity. A mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy would engage and limit the right to refuse medical treatment which is affirmed under s 11 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. The New Zealand Government would need to ensure that a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy is a justified limitation placed upon the s 11 right. To do this, the New Zealand Government must balance the public health interests with the right to personal autonomy. Although New Zealand places a high value on personal autonomy, the New Zealand Government has previously overridden personal autonomy to protect the nation’s health and well-being from public health crises (including COVID-19). Because New Zealand has a precedent of prioritising the population’s well-being over individuals’ rights, it is possible for the New Zealand Government to implement a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. However, to introduce such policy, the New Zealand Government must observe the rule of law to uphold the foundation of a liberal democracy. If the New Zealand Government fails to consider the rule of law, a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy can be deemed ultra vires and is likely that public trust and confidence in vaccinations and governments will decline. In summary, this paper argues that if New Zealand struggles to achieve herd immunity, people who can receive COVID-19 vaccinations should be subject to a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. This is because the right to exercise personal autonomy turns into a privilege from a right if it causes harm upon others. If COVID-19 vaccinations are not mandated, people who actively chose to not be vaccinated will increase the spread of COVID-19 and create significant health risks. One may argue that being vaccinated against COVID-19 comes with the risk of experiencing adverse reactions. However, such risks are small compared to the risk of contracting COVID-19 and are outweighed by the benefits associated with COVID-19 vaccinations.
Type of thesis
Sugimoto, I. (2021). A mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy - Is there a place in New Zealand? (Thesis, Master of Laws (LLM)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14566
The University of Waikato
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