Mandatory vaccination in Ireland would be 'an admission of failure' - Staines

NPHET is set to discuss the issue of mandatory vaccination.

13.48 10 Jan 2022

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Mandatory vaccination in Irela...

Mandatory vaccination in Ireland would be 'an admission of failure' - Staines


13.48 10 Jan 2022

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A health expert says making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for the general public would be an ‘admission of failure’.

NPHET is set to consider whether the vaccines should be legally required.

It comes as more than half of people in ICU with COVID-19 have not been fully vaccinated, despite just 5-6% of the entire adult population remaining unvaccinated.


Minutes from a NPHET meeting last month reveal that health officials are waiting for research from the Department of Health on the “relevant ethical and legal considerations” before discussing the issue further.

Some European countries - including Austria and Germany - are already looking at making vaccines compulsory.

However, senior ministers here have previously voiced their opposition to such a move, given the vaccination rate in Ireland is already over 94%.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin reiterated that today, indicating that Ireland will stick with a 'voluntary system'.

Liam Herrick from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties told The Pat Kenny Show that Ireland has a long history of not making vaccines mandatory - for reasons including a strong constitutional protection for the right to bodily integrity.

He said: “From a vaccination perspective, our position - and the position of the Government, HSE and Department of Health - has been that the most effective way of getting a high vaccine take-up is to provide strong, public health information to the people.

“[It’s] to encourage people on a voluntary basis to take up the vaccine, and then really take special efforts to reach the hard-to-reach sections of the population.

"The signs on that are that we have one of the highest vaccination in the world.”

Mr Herrick said data protection officials have noted that asking staff about vaccination status may be acceptable in specific, ‘sensitive’ situations such as a hospital setting.

However, he said the stance in Ireland to date - that vaccines should generally be on a voluntary basis - has worked, and international evidence shows a mandatory approach could in fact become counter-productive.

'Last resort'

DCU Professor of Health Systems Anthony Staines is also against the move - saying it would be “best avoided” if at all possible.

He said: “The burden of requiring people to be vaccinated is really quite considerable.

“It seems almost an admission that you’ve failed to persuade people on the merits of your case.”

He said it might be more productive to put the resources that would be used in enforcing mandatory vaccination into instead reaching out to unvaccinated groups within the community.

Professor Staines does "firmly" believe healthcare workers should be required to be vaccinated - but such a measure should only be a "last resort" for the general public.

Some experts have suggested it’s worth at least having a discussion about the mandatory vaccination issue.

Immunology expert Liam Fanning told Newstalk Breakfast: “We do have a form of mandatory vaccination for hepatitis B in the healthcare setting.

“It’s not correct to say we don’t have some form on this.”

However, he said there doesn’t currently appear to be a will within Government to introduce such a measure for COVID vaccines.

For now, Professing Fanning believes we should wait for NPHET to receive the discussion paper and go from there.

Reporting by Paul O'Donoghue and Stephen McNeice
Main image: File photo. Picture by: JJ Gouin / Alamy Stock Photo

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