Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for oral health professionals (OHPs) - Ethical appraisal
The recently detected South African variant, Covid-19, 501Y.V2 is more transmissible, though not virulent as the initial strain.1 The morbidity and mortality rates due to this variant have risen exponentially, putting huge pressure on the healthcare system, locally and globally. As a consequence the South African government imposed hard lockdown measures (level 3) as a means to curb the pandemic. Governments around the world are scrambling to obtain and roll-out Covid-19 vaccination programs to save lives and livelihoods. Most developed countries have initiated inoculations, amid widespread misinformation and hesitancy. Literature indicate that healthcare professionals (HCPs) are generally complacent and hesitant about vaccination. The COVID-19 uptake is likely to be suboptimal among HCPs and the general populations. The voluntary immunization program will commence in February 2021, and the Healthcare professionals will be among the first to be vaccinated. It remains to be seen if this cohort will achieve the desired vaccinations rates. Failure for this influential group to vaccinate could derail the program and lead to failure to achieve herd immunity. In the face of emerging vaccine hesitancy among HCPs, should oral health professionals be compelled to vaccinate? Will any refusal by OHPs to be immunized be morally justified? Oral health professionals in this context of this paper, represent all oral health professionals involved in the management dental patients. No singular ethical framework is held as sufficient to resolve these questions. This paper interrogates aspect of clinical ethics, including the Hippocratic Oath, principilism, public health ethics (Utilitarianism) and Kantian deontology,
to tackle the questions raised. We conclude that OHPs have a moral duty to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
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