Avoid the blanket enforcement of vaccine mandate

Friday December 17 2021
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Governments around the world have started making Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory.

While many African countries are yet to make significant progress with vaccine uptake partly due to limited access to dose availability as well as vaccine hesitancy.

Rwanda’s relatively successful vaccination campaign has forced the government to introduce vaccine mandates.

Kigali’s mandatory vaccine policy that is currently being enforced mainly around Kigali City has seen access to public places and services such as markets, hotels, and social events limited to those that are fully vaccinated.

Yet the mandate requires two doses while only some 3 million Rwandans have only gotten the first jab so far.

According to the Ministry of Health numbers, 6.2 million people have received their first jab and only 3.7 million of these came for the second jab.


The vaccine mandate also applies to students and children who vaccination was rolled out less than three weeks ago and have not received the second dose yet.

The Prime Minister, Edouard Ngirente has explained to both chambers of parliament that the move is to encourage people who have not taken both doses of the vaccine to take and protect the vaccinated.

Ministry of Health data shows that over 20,000 people in Kigali were hesitant to take the vaccine at first. After multiple awareness campaigns, 12,000 heeded the call.

Note also that most of the anti-vaxxers have strong religious beliefs. “As we continue to educate the hesitant ones, we are obliged to protect our citizens and vaccine mandates ensure our efforts to vaccinate the population are sustainable and effective,” Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente said.

Observers, however, feel that the mandate has come too soon as majority of Rwandans have not taken the second dose yet.

Nonetheless, Covid-19 vaccines are accessed at district hospitals and health centres across the country.

The challenge with the blanket enforcement of vaccine mandates is that second doses are still scheduled, meaning one cannot receive the second dose at their convenience.

As a result, many young people who were not eligible for the vaccine until recently have started being penalised prematurely for not being fully vaccinated.

For instance, recently the British Council in Rwanda barred candidates who were not fully vaccinated from sitting their Computer Delivered IELTS exam. Yet some of the candidates were below 18 years, and had only received their first dose. Worse still, the mandate was only communicated a few days prior to the event.

It is important that the government gives room to individuals who may have credible reasons for not being fully vaccinated. For instance, if one presents proof that their second dose is scheduled for a later date, they should be allowed to access venues.

And now the discovery of the Omicron variant in a neighbouring country is likely to push the government to harden its approach. While efforts must be made to protect lives and prevent a fourth wave this festive season, it is important to avoid blanket enforcement of the vaccine mandate that may see some people denied essential services.