Covid-19 Emergency Legislation – A Concern for Vaccine Choice and Health Freedom

The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020 was presented before the Dáil on March 19th 2020 which grants the government special powers to tackle Covid-19.

While our members are behind all efforts to manage the Covid-19 crisis to best effect, there are concerns that these special powers may be used as a tool for coercion, especially if a Covid-19 vaccine is introduced.

The letter below was sent to all TDs on 19th March and included signatures of over 500 members who had responded to our call to action in the short space of time that we had to submit concerns.

The legislation passed through the Dáil and Seanad, and was signed into Law by the President on March 20th with the articles of concern unchanged. We received acknowledgement and response to the letter from a small number of TDs.

I am sending this on behalf of the undersigned.

We are writing in relation to the emergency legislation that is due to go before the Dáil today, Thursday 19th March: Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020.

It is heartening to see Ireland taking its current approach in order to minimise Covid-19 cases and mortality.

We are concerned about the broad range of powers granted by the draft legislation, for example, Part III, Section 11(a)-(e) ‘Detention and isolation of persons in certain circumstances’, which gives extreme power to individuals, based on their interpretation of the risk that another individual may pose in relation to Covid-19.

We are also concerned that the broad powers granted by this legislation may result in unintended consequences, for example, individuals may feel coerced into consenting to vaccination should one become available out of fear of forced detention and isolation.  

The interpretation of the legislation may also lead to an attempt to override a person's entitlement to informed consent and bodily integrity. The broad powers that the legislation grants the medical officer in relation to ‘potential source of infection’, could potentially extend to detention and isolation of healthy and/or unvaccinated individuals.

We ask you to seek reassurance on our behalf that this legislation will not be used at any time in the future to coerce vaccination on those who exercise their right to informed consent and in doing so, decide not to get a vaccine for COVID-19 or any other illness.

We are concerned about the accelerated processes around implementation of this legislation and any fast-tracking of a vaccine to market. We must learn from Ireland’s past experience with the H1N1 swine flu vaccine Pandemrix that was rushed to market, with an incomplete safety profile and had devastating impacts on individual lives, resulting in a heavy financial burden on the taxpayer.

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