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Vaccine discrimination could be unlawful, says HRC

Proof: Kim Wilson, the minister of health gets her Covid-19 vaccine shot (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Residents who do not take the Covid-19 vaccine could be unlawfully discriminated against, according to the Human Rights Commission.

And the organisation has warned that Government must allow for people’s exceptions in personal circumstances before it drafts any legislation making vaccine passports mandatory.

In a statement today, an HRC spokeswoman said: “The idea of vaccine passports is an evolving topic worldwide, and Bermuda is no exception.

“As with any mandatory practice or policy applied to the general public, the potential for discriminatory impacts exists and must be carefully assessed to ensure violations do not occur.

“There is a risk of unlawful discrimination if practices and policies do not account for individual circumstances and characteristics, which may then result in persons being unfairly disadvantaged.

“For example, related to the Covid-19 vaccine, a person may be unable to receive the vaccination due to a disability or medical condition.”

The spokeswoman noted that David Burt, the Premier, had raised the issue in a national address last week, and suggested that “appropriate exceptions” would be considered.

Previously, Mr Burt had said that passports were being considered, but would have a limited use, such as for travel and attending large events.

During a public forum last month, he said: “I think that it’s important. It’s a question of when and how it will be used. I think that the use will be limited.”

The HRC spokeswoman said: “The implementation of any mandated protocols to protect public health must be balanced to protect against the potential for discriminatory treatment against persons who cannot or do not receive the vaccine.

“It is also important to remember that in addition to the Human Rights Act, 1981, other legal protections may be relevant when considering compulsory vaccinations or certifications specifically, or any Covid-19 policies or practices generally, including constitutional, employment and privacy laws.”

The spokeswoman added that anyone who believes they have suffered from unlawfully discrimination is encouraged to submit a complaint or query to the Office of the Human Rights Commission, either via telephone on 295 5859 or via e-mail at HRC_Intakes@gov.bm.

The physical office is currently closed to in-person visits due to health and safety regulations.

A copy of the Human Rights Act, 1981 can be found online at either www.humanrights.bm or www.bermudalaws.bm

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Published April 29, 2021 at 7:55 am (Updated April 29, 2021 at 7:15 am)

Vaccine discrimination could be unlawful, says HRC

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