A riot demonstration against the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination was held in front of Los Angeles City Hall. This is because a system has been implemented to bar the use of public facilities to citizens if they cannot show proof that they have been vaccinated. One protest participant even assaulted a reporter who was covering the protest using a weapon that appeared to be a bottle of water, tearing the reporter's mask. With the introduction of a mandatory vaccination system, social confrontation is getting worse.
Increased pressure of vaccination
Vaccination rates in major countries such as the U.S., Japan and Israel exceeded 50 percent as of August 27 this year, but the global COVID-19 epidemic has continued for nine weeks due to the spread of the Delta Variant. According to the Central Disease Control Headquarters on August 27, the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide increased by 60,000 from 4.56 million last week.1) In particular, the number of confirmed cases continued to surge in the U.S., Israel, and Japan. In some U.S. states, the COVID-19 epidemic has continued, with people not getting vaccinated, resulting in a shortage of intensive care beds. Japan's numbers have also been on the rise for nine weeks, with a total of 21 cities including Tokyo issuing emergencies until September 12. The world has reached the peak of COVID-19, but with the increase in vaccinations, the third pandemic in the world is the smallest. The COVID-19 epidemic has continued in countries such as Iceland, where the vaccination rate has exceeded 70 percent recently, but there have been no deaths since May this year. However, in the United States, where the vaccination completion rate is just over 50 percent, or in the UK, where social distancing was eased before a 60 percent vaccination rate was reached, the number of deaths is increasing. As such, the importance of vaccination is growing. Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert in the U.S., stressed that "If the overwhelming majority of people are vaccinated, the U.S. can control the pandemic by spring next year, and the best way forward is to vaccinate as many people as possible."2) It means that many more people need to be vaccinated before they can live a normal life as before.
Recently, the Pfizer vaccine was officially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Until now, COVID-19 vaccines such as Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen have been used in the U.S. with only emergency use approval (EUA). EUA approvals are given to all medicines that appear to be effective in disease prevention in the event of a public health emergency, but higher standards for safety, efficacy, manufacturing, quality, and so on must be met to obtain FDA approval. When Pfizer obtained its first official approval, the "mandatory vaccination" measure worldwide caught fire. The U.S. President Joe Biden came forward and encouraged those who questioned the vaccine's safety to get vaccinated. He also urged the U.S. authorities to expand mandatory vaccination from the public domain to the private domain. New York City has made it mandatory for faculty members at all schools in the city to be vaccinated following the FDA's announcement on August 24. If they do not get vaccinated, they must undergo regular testing. Morgan Stanley and Blackdog have begun to demand vaccination certificates for employees entering the office, and companies such as Google and Facebook have since joined the move to make vaccines mandatory. As the official approval of vaccines is accelerated, the number of institutions and major companies in the U.S. that require mandatory vaccines is expected to increase.
The pressure on companies to vaccinate is increasing in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the companies from causing more damage. Until recently, foreign companies had actively introduced a "carrot policy" that provided incentives to increase vaccination rates for employees. The U.S. company Amazon offered a bonus of $100 (about 115,700 won) if a new warehouse employee submitted a vaccination certificate, and Bankard, a global asset manager, offered $1,000 (about 1,157,000 won) in return for vaccination. However, as the vaccination rate was still low even with such cash incentives, they began to use a "stick policy" to penalize those who hadn't been vaccinated. Employees working for major U.S. companies such as various airlines, Goldman Sachs, and others will face disadvantages if they do not get vaccinated. Delta Airlines collected an additional $200 a month if employees who have signed up for its health insurance program do not get vaccinated from November this year. This is the first time a U.S. company is fining an unvaccinated employee. The move is aimed at addressing financial losses incurred by the company due to the individual's decision not to receive the vaccine. Furthermore, Tyson Foods, the largest meat processing company in the U.S., has decided to fire workers who have not been vaccinated by November 1st. CNN, a U.S. broadcaster, also recently fired three employees who entered the office unvaccinated, following mandatory vaccinations for office workers.
These companies' mandatory vaccinations have led to resistance from some workers' groups, especially labor unions. They assert that concerns about the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine still remain, and employers should not infringe on individuals' right to make physical decisions. When Tyson Foods announced its mandatory vaccination plan, the U.S. Food and Commercial Workers' Union, which has 1.3 million members, immediately issued an opposition statement. There have even been cases where suspended employees have filed a lawsuit against their employer. After employees of the Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas were suspended for two weeks for non-vaccination, 117 of them filed a lawsuit to overturn the suspension. The first trial court, however, rejected the request, saying, "The need for vaccination is recognized," and all the employees in question were fired. There was also a strike in France, where vaccination is mandatory at the national level. The French government has required all vaccinations to be completed by September 15 for those in frequent contact with the socially vulnerable, including medical workers. France's largest firefighter union, the FA SPP-PATS, went on strike indefinitely from August 9, saying, "We're not against vaccination, but the individual's right to choose whether to get it or not should be guaranteed. The mandatory vaccination is an unconstitutional act that violates the basic rights of equality and freedom."3) It means that mandatory vaccination is a violation of human rights and the public is not a "mouse in the laboratory" on which to force vaccination with a series of side-effect cases.
The side effect in the society
The growing social conflict over mandatory vaccination has led to fully-fledged protests across the world against it, with violent consequences. Several people were injured in the U.S. when a clash broke out between protesters opposing the mandatory vaccination and left-wing groups criticizing them. The protest came as Los Angeles voted to pass a bill that mandates vaccination certificates for entering public places. Right-wing protesters opposed to the mandatory vaccinations held a rally to support "The Choice of Free March Against Medical Tyranny", while left-wing groups confronted them with the slogan, "No Safe Space for Fascists." Facism is a system that extremely restricts individual freedom for the benefit of the country, and they used such terms in the context that mandatory vaccination violates their freedom. In Athens, Greece, about 7,000 people staged a protest on August 29 against mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for health care workers. They protested against the government's actions, holding placards with words such as "We oppose facism" or "Democracy, be forever." Some of them threw stones and bottles at police, and in response, Greek police fired tear gas and water cannons. In France, the government announced a policy in July to require vaccine certificates when using various facilities such as movie theaters, restaurants, and trains, which led to regular mass protests by citizens every weekend. On August 28, 160,000 people participated in anti-vaccine passport protests in 222 cities across France, including Paris. And during the protest, sixteen participants were arrested by police and three police officers were injured.
Against these backdrops, many governments are showing a trend toward mandatory vaccinations. Some European countries, including France and Germany, have introduced vaccine certificates since July, and other countries such as the U.S. have mandated them. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference, "Citizens must have a certificate that they have been vaccinated at least once to enter restaurants, gyms, etc. from August 16." However, with the implementation of this system, there are cases of inoculation certificates being stolen or forged. On e-commerce site eBay, vaccination-certified cards with the logo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are sold for between $8 and $11. The reason for this surge in forgery is that people who have not and do not intend to be vaccinated are required or pressured to obtain certificates for everyday spaces such as school and work. It is also pointed out that the problem has grown as health authorities in the U.S. and other countries issue vaccine certificates on paper. They decided to produce certificates with paper cards that can be copied or printed easily, rather than digital tracking systems, focusing on the rapid inoculation of the people. Blank certificates are the most in demand because with only the CDC logo stamped on it, they are easy to manipulate. In France, some citizens buy fake certificates, even though the vaccine supply is plentiful and they can get vaccinated free of charge. This is the result of distrust of vaccines and pressure for vaccination by the government. Certificates are logged in a smartphone app with QR codes and checked each time people enter a public facility there. So counterfeiters can hack the personal information of a doctor and then enter the health insurance network using that information in order to issue a certificate of inoculation. In the case of southwestern France, forgery of certificates is expanding, with one doctor reporting that he had discovered that 55 false certificates had been made in his name on his health insurance computer network. Like these, the number of cases of vaccination forgery is increasing.
For Smooth Vaccination
With the endless spread of COVID-19 worldwide, both the number of vaccinations and the debate over the disease are heating up. Protests against the vaccine are taking place everywhere and even leading to bloodshed. Nevertheless, governments in many countries are institutionalizing mandatory vaccinations, and trade in counterfeit vaccination certificates is increasing among citizens who have so far avoided vaccination. The situation begs the question of whether the mandatory vaccination system can be implemented smoothly due to the expansion of protests and counterfeit transactions.
1) Lee Sangmin, "Countries Suffering Helplessly from Delta Variable Virus, Have Been Spreading Worldwide for Nine Consecutive Weeks.", Maegyeong Health, August 28, 2021
2) Jeong Seongho, "Fauci says, "Corona Can Be Controlled Next Spring If Overwhelming Majority Are Vaccinated."", Yeonhap News, August 25, 2021
3) Sin Suji, "Sue of U.S. Hospital Workers and Strike of French Union by Mandatory Vaccination", Chosun Ilbo, August 20, 2021
Kim Lee Jiwon / Reporter
Park Gil Yeonseo / Reporter