11 January 2021 | Draft
The question as to whether vaccination against COVID-19 should be voluntary or mandatory is now widely discussed. Increasingly any questions as to the value or dangers of such vaccination are framed as misinformation -- if not deliberate disinformation and a feature of conspiracy theories, necessarily to be deprecated. This extends to complicity of some scientific authorities with proposals for government justifications for censorship, "taking down" websites and accounts, and possibly criminal proceedings
There is almost no sense of perspective on these matters. Information is now either valid, as having been confIrmed by authorities, or to be framed as misinformation or worse -- disrupting the coherence of the response to COVID-19. The limited array of strategic tools deployed -- vaccination, social distancing, lockdowns, masking, sanitisation and contact tracing -- are now framed as constituting a panacea. This applies in particular to vaccination, with associated proposals for an "immunity passport"
Unfortunately it has been necessary to recognize that these measures, and vaccination in particular, only reduce the risk of infection. It is increasingly implied that:
For some there is considerable concern that any debate concerning these matters is increasingly deprecated or suppressed. Few media now dare to raise questions in this regard -- for fear of being framed as purveyors of misinformation. Indicative exceptions include:
A particular example is offered by media complicity in marginalization and suppression of alternative views by relevant scientists with regard to responses to COVID-19 and vaccination -- exemplified by institutional responses to the Great Barrington Declaration (4 October 2020), notably signed by epidemiologists. It is to be expected that reports of problematic side-effects will be treated as statistically incidental rather than of any wider significance -- following the pattern of tolerable "collateral damage".
Online platforms claim to be able to design algorithms to detect misinformation in order to "take down" sites. Given the ease with which this is purportedly done, it is appropriate to ask whether such algorithms are more sophisticated than the clumsy design of government lockdown policies. These have rendered evident the obvious inability of authorities to distinguish zones of high risk from those of lowest risk -- a matter of data granularity
Strikingly absent is any capacity to consider these contradictory phenomena with any scientific objectivity. The focus is on the need for the perspective of government authorities to prevail at any cost -- assisted by scientific institutions dependent on government funding, and reinforced by media complicit with government policy. Any challenge to that is consequently framed as a threat to public health and meriting the strictest response by authorities. This echoes a policy articulated with respect to other issues: There is No Alternative (TINA). It remains unclear how the trend towards excessive authoritarianism will progress in the absence of more insightful approaches to the challenge of COVID-19.
These issues are exacerbated by the tardy recognition by WHO of the limits on testing for COVID-19 -- despite widespread publication of shock statistics on "cases" -- with implications variously discussed:
Use of the human rights declaration as a template: There is therefore a case for a speculative exploration of the implications of universal vaccination -- whether voluntary or otherwise -- in the light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). As a legal formalization and enrichment of habeas corpus, this could be recognized as an effort to define the desirable characteristics of life in a global civilization. With vaccination now asserted to be the primary guarantee of life in the face of the pandemic threat, has vaccination become a Licence to Live? The sense of a "licence" is especially emphasized by plans for an "immunity passport" of some kind.
As an exploratory reframing device, the original declaration has previously been used as a template to explore somewhat related issues:
Given the discourse with regard to "immunity", of interest with respect to the latter are the protections in place for the pharmaceutical industry if exposed to an "adverse event following immunization" as defined by WHO (and otherwise known as a vaccine injury). In the USA the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) went into effect in 1988 to compensate individuals and families of individuals who have been injured by specified childhood vaccines. As of October 2019, $4.2 billion in compensation (not including attorneys fees and costs) has been awarded. In the UK a Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS) has been in place since 1979, although thousands of unsuccessful claims have been made. As of 2005, the British government had paid out £3.5 million to vaccine injury patients since 1997.
The vaccine injury situation with regard to COVID-19 now appears highly problematic, at least in the US (Ken Alltucker, Government program tapped to pay for COVID-19 vaccine injuries rarely sides with consumers, USA Today, 27 December 2020; Bernard Condon and Matt Sedensky, Rare vaccine injury claims steered to obscure federal office, AP News, 23 December 2020). The broader challenge has also been described (Sam Halabi, Andrew Heinrich, and Saad B. Omer, No-Fault Compensation for Vaccine Injury: the other side of equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, New England Journal of Medicine, 3 December 2020; Nicholas Wood, Who pays compensation if a COVID-19 vaccine has rare side-effects? The Conversation, 20 October 2020).
In the following use of the UNDHR template, the Preamble has been omitted, thereby placing the focus on the 30 Articles. These have been presented in abridged form in the following table. Against each article three columns are added for consideration:
Experimental application of the UNDHR template to vaccination
|Articles of Declaration of Human Rights (abridged; see original)||Possible implications (tentative)|
|Licensed to Live?||Licensed to Lie?||Unlicensed to Die?|
|1||All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights....||Provided they have a vaccination||Authorities have a right to misrepresent the efficacy and dangers of vaccination||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|2||Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration...||Provided they have been vaccinated||Authorities have a right to misrepresent the envisaged constraints associated with vaccination hesitancy||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|3||Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person||Provided they have been vaccinated||Authorities have a right to misrepresent the envisaged constraints associated with vaccination hesitancy||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|4||No one shall be held in slavery or servitude...||Unless they resist vaccination or oppose it||Authorities have a right to misrepresent the envisaged constraints associated with vaccination hesitancy||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|5||No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment||Unless they resist vaccination or oppose it||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|6||Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|7||All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law...||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|8||Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|9||No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile||With the exception of those who resist vaccination or promote opposition to it||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|10||Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal...||With the exception of those promoting what is framed as misinformation by authorities||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|11||Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty...||With the exception of promoting what is framed as misinformation by authorities||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|12||No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence...||With the exception of those promoting what is framed as misinformation by authorities||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|13||Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|14||Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution||With the exception of those promoting what is framed as misinformation by authorities||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|15||Everyone has the right to a nationality||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|16||Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to form a family....||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|17||Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|18||Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion...||With the exception of those promoting what is framed as misinformation by authorities||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|19||Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression...||With the exception of those promoting what is framed as misinformation by authorities||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|20||Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association||With the exception of those promoting what is framed as misinformation by authorities||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|21||Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives||With the exception of those promoting what is framed as misinformation by authorities||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|22||Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security...||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|23||Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|24||Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|25||Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family...||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|26||Everyone has the right to education...||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|27||Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community...||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|28||Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized||Provided they have been vaccinated||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|29||Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible||With the exception of those promoting what is framed as misinformation by authorities||None have a right to die, unless enabled by authorities|
|30||Nothing in this Declaration may he interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein|
Legality in the light of human rights: The implication of institutional initiatives for human rights has notably been specifically addressed to some degree by the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Pandemic and Human Rights in the Americas (Resolution 1/2020, adopted by the IACHR on 10 April 2020). The UN Secretary-General issued a policy brief highlighting how human rights are critical to shaping pandemic response, as they put people “centre-stage” while also preserving human dignity (UN agencies uphold human rights considerations in COVID-19 data collection, UN News, 20 November 2020)..
However issues in that regard have been variously highlighted:
Specific consideration has been given as to the violation of human rights by mandataory vaccination:
Disinformation as perceived by authorities, and specifically deplored by the World Health Organization, merits exploration with a potential historical parallel, namely the so-called diabolus in musica, as specifically condemned, banned and avoided by the Roman Catholic Church. The latter formulated rules for what music was acceptable during services -- a form of "licence" for acceptable harmony. As clarified by Richard Merrick:
Music that did not adhere to the rules for 'sacred music' was then considered impure. More specifically, some intervals were considered 'perfect' while others were 'imperfect.' Of all the intervals in an octave, the most impure and imperfect musical interval was the tritone that divides an octave.
The tritone was considered not only an unfit and unpleasing interval by the Church fathers -- it was believed to be an evil interval that could adversely affect our character when used in music. It was even referred to as Diabolus in Musica, or Devil in Music, and expressly forbidden under Church canon law. To this day the Church officially maintains a policy of tritone avoidance as set forth in the decree of 'universal liturgical music in Gregorian chant,' most recently reaffirmed in the 1903-1967 Musicam Sacram (Secret - Tritone / Devil's Musica, Token Rock, 2011).
Other clarifications are available (Jon Wiederhorn, The Devil's Chord: The Eerie History of 'Diabolus in Musica', Fender; Daniel Esparza, The "devil's chord": A forbidden medieval musical sequence, Aleteia, 25 October 2018; Why is the Augmented 4th the "chord of evil" that was banned in Renaissance church music? The Guardian). Whether the Church ruling constitutes a formal ban is itself disputed. As a strong recommendation on the musical enhancement of belief, this does however merit comparison with the pressure from authorities for "voluntary" vaccination and against any hesitancy in that regard. An offer not to be refused -- "tritone in; funding out"?
Are authorities, with the leadership of WHO, framing the information for which they are responsible as effectively "sacred", if only in a secular sense? Is any disagreement with that then to be recognized as an offensive impurity in any celebration of the common weal -- and therefore legitimately framed as "evil"? The parallel is all the more appropriate in that the tritone is condemned as sounding "false" in comparison with the coherence of the acclained harmonies of sacred music. Does the sense of being false merit comparison with what is deemed repugnant in so-called fake news?
In contrast it is appropriate to recognize the role played by the tritone in many forms of popular modern music -- superseding the restrictive framing of the Catholic Church. This frames the question as to the function of "disinformation" and "fake news" in modern society -- in contrast to what WHO is effectively claiming to be the sacred nature of the restrictive truth it promulgates and authorizes (Varieties of Fake News and Misrepresentation: when are deception, pretence and cover-up acceptable? 2019).
Rather than seeking to impose a particular understanding of consonance in the manner of the Catholic Church -- and in contrast with the fundamental right to freedom of opinion -- is there is a case for WHO to learn to embrace the wider understanding of complex systems exemplified by dissonance and those who identify with it?
The argument of authorities for mandatory vaccination is in process of reframing the understanding and formalization of individual responsibility to the the collective. Specifically the focus is on minimizing the infection of others whilst maximizing individual protection from infection. Achieving a high level of vaccination is also presented in terms of achieving the elusive goal of herd immunity.
The exploration above with respect to the implication for human rights can therefore be extended to include that of human responsibilities. A case has long been made for a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities as a complement to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A draft Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, was proposed by the InterAction Council in 1997 (as amended in 1998) for consideration by the United Nations as such a complement. No action has seemingly been taken on the original proposal (available in many languages). In a reaction to it, the UN approved a Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (53/144, 9 December 1998).
Related initiatives with respect to human responsibilities: A draft proposal for a very comprehensive Declaration of Human Duties and Responsibilities was adopted in 1998 in Valencia, under the auspices of UNESCO and the Valencia Third Millennium Foundation, by a high-level group (chaired by Richard J Goldstone) and then submitted for consideration to UNESCO in 1999 as the "Valencia Declaration" (but without any apparent follow-up). An earlier proposal, known as the Trieste Declaration of Human Duties (also known as the Carta of Human Duties), had been drafted from 1992 by the International Council of Human Duties. The Earth Charter (completed in 2000) has also been considered to be a Declaration of Human Duties and Responsibilities even if it does not bear that name -- notably by recognizing the need for "reproductive health and responsible reproduction".
Since the adoption of the 1948 Declaration, the peoples of the world have been witness to the totally irresponsible, self-interested pursuit of human rights by signatories of it or by those invoking its clauses. They have also been witness to massacres on a scale commensurate with those it was designed to prevent, which continue at this time -- and with merely token response by a United Nations arguably complicit in the process to some degree (as with Srebrenica and Rwanda).
In a Universal Declaration on Democracy (adopted in 1997), the Inter-Parliamentary Union specifies: Democracy is inseparable from the rights set forth in the international instruments recalled in the preamble. These rights must therefore be applied effectively and their proper exercise must be matched with individual and collective responsibilities.
Whilst there has long been a UN Commission on Human Rights, there is no such Commission on Human Responsibilities. The process of Dialogue among Civilizations, initiated by the United Nations in 2001, was immediately followed by the arrogation of the right by some permanent members of the UN Security Council to engage in a "war against terrorism" -- sustained by a religious and strategic mindset regarding a "clash of civilizations". In so doing they set aside some human rights enshrined in international law, notably with regard to the use of torture. Terrorism may be understood as one inappropriate form of human intercourse, just as its causes are another, and as may be the reaction to it. The UN Report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (A More Secure World: our shared responsibility, 2004) might be seen as another effort to reframe the question of human responsibility.
Insights from corporate social responsibility? In considering how to formalize individual responsbility with respect to the collective, It is appropriate to note the potential relevance of efforts to formalize collective responsibility. These have notably focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). Various international laws have been developed and various organizations have used their authority to push this beyond individual or even industry-wide initiatives. For example the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) is an instrument consisting of 31 principles implementing the UN Protect, Respect and Remedy framework on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
The relevance of CSRs to responsibility with respect to vaccination and masking is all the greater given the questionable efficacy of those measures in practice and increasing recognition of the irresponsibility and impunity of corporations (John Dudovskiy, Criticism Associated with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Business Research Methodology, 26 July 2012; Matthew Lynn, Corporate Social Responsibility has become a racket - and a dangerous one, The Telegraph, 28 September 2015).
The most obvious question is how CSR principles frame, or fail to reframe, the strategies of vaccine manufacturers (WHO chief warns of 'moral failure' as coronavirus vaccine rollout favours wealthier nations, ABC News, 19 January 2021; Matt Taibbi, Big Pharma’s Covid-19 Profiteers, Rolling Stone, 13 August 2020; Sharon Lerner, How Big Pharma Prepares to Profit from the Coronavirus, The Intercept, 14 March 2020). Given the dramatic contradiction with respect to CSRs evident in the Volkswagen emissions scandal ("Dieselgate"), might an equivalent become evident in the case of Big Pharma and vaccine production?
As with any drug, who provides effective oversight to ensure that vaccines are not diluted -- or replaced by some ineffective or counterfeit product -- especially in times of great pressure on availability (Palina Kolvani, et al, Pandemic Backsliding: democracy and disinformation seven months into the Covid-19 pandemic, V-Dem Institute, 2 October 2020). Given the understanding of "trial" in relation to drugs, there is considerable irony to any comparison of media publicity of vaccination of celebrities with the much deprecated "show trials" of dictatorships.
Human responsibilities as reframed by threats to humanity and the environment: Despite the failure of past initiatives, does the manner in which the requirement for vaccination is presented by authorities now constitute a curious "back door" approach to international formalization of individual responsibility -- if not through a form of subterfuge?
The role of overcrowding is now increasingly recognized as a major factor in enabling COVID-19 infection. This contrasts with a marked tendency to avoid reference to this, as previously argued (Prohibition of Reference to Overcrowding: draft proposal for an International Convention, (2019)). Although now recognized to some degree, the argument does not extend to the challenge of overpopulation, as may be similarly argued (Social Distancing under Conditions of Overcrowding: Weaponising mass distraction from overpopulation denial? 2020). However conspiracy theories abound with regard to the use of vaccination as a feature of a hidden agenda to reduce global population numbers -- "population culling".
It can of course be argued that most issues resulting in human suffering and death, that are of concern to the United Nations, are a direct consequence of irresponsible human intercourse -- including global warming and the consequent climate change (see Begetting: challenges and responsibilities of overpopulation, 2007). From that perspective, the set of rights invites exploratory adaptation, as noted above (Universal Declaration of Responsibilities of Human Intercourse: a draft proposal, 2007).
With respect to vaccine technology, as yet to be clarified are the responsibilities associated with patents in that regard (Universal Declaration of Patent Responsibilities: a draft proposal, 2007). With respect to constraints on availability of vaccines, it is argued that the European Union does not have enough vaccine because manufacturers are not fulfilling their contracts. Sharing patents in times of crisis could speed up production and solve global problems, as argued by Barbara Wesel (Europe must fight for its coronavirus vaccines, and share them, DW, January 2021). Such responsibility clearly has implications for the widely promoted role of artificial intelligence -- and its predicted dramatic effects on unemployment.
Licensing as a formalization of individual contractual responsibilities: If human responsibilities are indeed to be recognized to a far greater degree as a consequence of the required response to the pandemic, any notions of a social contract can then be understood as effectively taking the form of a licence.
Ironically, in the light of the reference to CSRs, of potential relevance are the insights which might be offered by recognition of corporate personhood whereby a corporation has at least some of the legal rights and responsibilities enjoyed by natural persons. If corporations are indeed to be understood as having responsibilities to society -- as articulated by the UN Global Compact -- does the thinking in that regard offer insights into the responsibilities of individuals?
Following the articulation above, this then suggests the need for further reflection on:
For further updates on this site, subscribe here