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Ombudsman: vaccination must not be presented as an 'extra'

The Ombudsman's Office has received several dozen questions regarding vaccination against Covid-19 and discourse related to it. Ombudsman Juris Jansons spoke to Latvian Radio journalist Linda Spundiņa May 14 about the issue.

Linda Spundiņa: Does the Ombudsman's Office receive complaints from residents related to the Covid-19 vaccination process?

Juris Jansons: Yes, until now, we have received 22 questions from people in the National Armed Forces and there are 9 applications from people in the medical field. There's a question about the mandatory nature of vaccination.

What do you say?

Even if [vaccination] is stated as compulsory, every person has the right to refuse vaccination. And there can be both objective reasons and subjective. There might be some contraindications of a medical nature, there might also be religious convictions, of course, including lack of education, so ignorance. Our point is unequivocal and it is quite fundamental at the moment that if a person refuses to be vaccinated, they cannot lose their job [based on that].

Has any application been received, or a question, that the employer says they might dismiss [the unvaccinated person]?

We have received several anonymous submissions where these people asked to remain anonymous and do not reveal who the employer is. Often, when we address employers, they deny that probability, of course.

The issue of the various exemptions that the government is talking about, in relation to those people who will already be vaccinated. How do you look at it?

One should be very careful here because vaccination is not really an extra, like it is often made out to be. It's a pretty big need, medics say that too.

On the other hand, if we look at the certificate proposed by the European Commission, there is an element of non-discrimination, namely that the Green Certificate will give the right to travel for people who have vaccinated, or who have a negative Covid test, or who can show tests that they have antibodies. Essentially, these three “or” include an element of non-discrimination. And it is also a very serious signal to our politicians – to take this into account. This applies, not only to decisions, but also to rhetoric in the public room. Because there may be elements of discrimination: vaccinated against non-vaccinated ones.

Do you hear any aspect of discrimination in the politicians' rhetoric at the moment, as you have already said: vaccinated against non-vaccinated people?

I certainly hear it. As far as the vaccinated ones are concerned, all is well. But it shouldn't be highlighted as an extra. It's like a necessity for us to return to a normal rhythm of life.

Young people aged 16 will be able to get vaccinated next week. For example, a sixteen-year-old wants to get vaccinated, while the parents may not want to get vaccinated. Parents, children, vaccinations – what do you think?

Firstly, both under our national laws and under the Convention for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, the child has the right to be heard. If a child wishes, it must be taken into account. If parents object, then there are also mechanisms to deal with it.

If the parents refuse any medical manipulation which is recognized by the medics as necessary, the Orphan's and Custody Court may also intervene there. It is already within the competence of the Orphan's Court to assess whether the parents have acted in the best interests of the child. So those mechanisms are there. Do they work effectively? I must say - depends on the municipality.

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