Does the EU discriminate against the unvaccinated?
With additional research by Gayathri Loka
In one interview with The Parisian In early January, President Emmanuel Macron said he did not want to put the unvaccinated in jail or forcibly vaccinate them. Instead, he wanted piss them off – a rude term that basically means “fuck on them”, “fuck them” or “annoy them”, depending on who you ask.
10 days later, the lower house of France gave take the vaccines the green light. Until then, a simple health pass (sanitary pass) showing a recent negative test, vaccination certificate or certificate of recovery enough to access the places of leisure. Now, however, access to many public spaces depends on your vaccination status. If you want to have a coffee in a Coffee, watch a black and white movie in one movie theater, or stroll through various department stores with a surface area of more than 20,000 square meters, you must have had your fill.
Predictably, anti-vaxxers, anti-COVID-vaxxers and vaccine hesitants were angry about it. An anti-get vaccinated petition has garnered over 1,000,000 signatures. It read: “The government’s plan to transform the health pass into a vaccine pass is not just an administrative formality. This is the point of no return on the road to compulsory vaccines. It is to authorize the discrimination of people according to their vaccination status.
Of course, while many who supported this petition will have embraced some level of COVID conspiracy thinking, some will simply have taken a moral stance against such a move.
But even if they didn’t say it so colloquially, other EU countries clearly take a similar position. Austria was the first (and so far only) country to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for the general public, but others are discussing such a measure (Germany), while still others make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for people over a certain age (Greece, Italy), and many make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for people in certain professions (Latvia, Poland). And at the end of last year, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, informed that EU members consider mandatory vaccination against COVID-19.
The ostensible goal of these measures is to encourage the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine. But denying people their choice is controversial. The commonly used word is discrimination: Employers who require their employees to be vaccinated discriminant. Universities that require students to be vaccinated are discriminant. Bars that require patrons to be vaccinated are discriminant.
In response to these claims, pro-vaxxers may say that facing the consequences of your actions – or, as with not getting vaxxed, inaction – does not constitute discrimination. They might say that making such a claim is not a good thing to do – believing in pseudoscience is not a protected characteristic.
But do non-vaxxers even have a small dot? Does it stop people from doing things because of discrimination related to their vaccination status?
What is discrimination?
As we use it, discrimination refers to treating people differently because of who they are or what they do. A boss denying a disabled person a reasonable accommodation at work could constitute discrimination, for example. Dismissing an employee because of her pregnancy may constitute discrimination. A baker refuse to bake a gay cake can also be discrimination (although this is complicated and depends on which court you go to).
“Discrimination” is a word with largely negative connotations; it denotes something that is morally or legally wrong. It is often associated with illegality. According to Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, “any discrimination based on a ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic characteristics, language, religion or belief, political opinion or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, wealth, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation are prohibited.” In addition to this particular legislation, the 27 states of the EU have their own laws on discrimination. In the event of a conflict between EU law and the law of a Member State, EU law prevails.
Not all discrimination is illegal
But the term “discrimination” becomes even more complicated. Because sometimes you can discriminate against someone based on a protected characteristic without risking legal repercussions. This is often called legal discrimination.
For example, no EU country allows people under the age of 16 to vote in elections. Although this is age discrimination, it is generally accepted that there is a good reason behind it and therefore it is not illegal. Likewise, if your eyesight is poor and you are denied a driver’s license because of it, it is also generally accepted that this is not illegal disability discrimination. Nor is it illegal for a church to specify that only members of that religion apply for priesthood employment.
A more direct comparison to the COVID-19 vaccination restrictions would be the pre-SARS-CoV-2 non-COVID-19 vaccination restrictions.
In a number of countries in the EU and beyond, healthcare workers, veterinarians and prison staff are encouraged to get vaccinated against diseases such as hepatitis, measles, mumps, rubella and tetanus. The vaccinations in question are not always a condition of employment – this varies by country, region and contract – but sometimes they can.
Likewise, those who travel to various countries in Africa, South America and the Caribbean must sometimes prove that they are vaccinated against yellow fever. Indeed, a tourist does not have the right to visit a place, to fall ill with a preventable disease, and then to need medical attention there or elsewhere.
Along the same lines, some might also say that you have no right to live in a place, to get sick from a preventable disease, to need medical attention and to risk the well-being of others. others who are more medically vulnerable. Others might add that an individual’s refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine could be a form of discrimination in that it can threaten the health and freedom of those around you.
Discrimination based on creed
In December 2021, a UK court ruled that a “fear of COVID” was not protected under the UK Equality Act. It was then that a British worker had a ‘honest fear’ of contracting the virus and passing it on and so did not come to work. In response, his employer withheld his salary. However, according to the court, this did not constitute discrimination based on creed.
In January 2022, also in the UK, a carer who lost her job due to her refusal to vaccinate against COVID-19 was found have been fired enough. The court said that “his reason [for not getting vaccinated] was his fear and skepticism of the vaccine and his unsubstantiated belief that there was a conspiracy, rather than a religious belief. The court also noted that the caregiver’s unvaccinated status risked endangering the health of others.
Both cases raise questions. In the UK, people have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. In the EU there are similar rights as well as the right to autonomy and consent. These rights are certainly related to the COVID-19 vaccination policies – your right to refuse, refuse, hesitate according to any belief, conspiratorial or otherwise, that you may sincerely hold.
When checking facts, we like to label claims as “true”, “false” or “misleading”. These markers are nice in their cleanliness. They appeal to our readers and in many ways, they appeal to us too. After all, who doesn’t like having a clear answer to a clear question? Do COVID-19 vaccines contain nano-router technology? No. Are children dying from COVID-19 vaccines? Also no.
But as fact checkers, we struggle to give clear answers to claims centered on issues of legality. Every time we attempt to answer, our conclusions are likely to be tempered with words like “it’s possible that” or “it might be tenable” and slapped with an “unverifiable” tag which essentially means “we don’t know. , may be.”
The question are countries discriminating against unvaccinated people is an example where “we don’t know, maybe” is about the only answer we can give. Fact checkers cannot really answer such questions because such questions are a matter for the courts to discuss among themselves. Undoubtedly, the courts will disagree with each other. Undoubtedly, fact checkers will also disagree.
Image credit: Reuters