Vaccination and public/private coercion

10 February 2021 by

In an earlier post I discussed the problem of “vaccine hesitancy” and  written evidence to Parliament to Parliament outlining ways in which a vaccination against Covid-19 without consent could be put on a par with capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and with Section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

Since the announcement of successful clinical trials for the vaccination was made in mid-December, the prospect of population-wide vaccinations has become a reality, and, whilst there are still supply problems, there is no doubt that the issue of medical intervention without consent being made mandatory either through private channels has begun to exercise legal minds across the country. Saga cruise line and the airline Qantas for example have indicated their intention to refuse non vaccinated passengers. Such private prohibitions may have almost as broad an effect as the restrictions on civil liberties passed under the Coronavirus Act since lockdown was declared on March 23 2020 (more specifically, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020).

I write this solely to draw attention to the cogent summary of these questions published by Boyes Turner LLP on the 5th February via Lexology: A Shot in the Arm – Can Leisure and Hospitality require a vaccine to access their Services? They ask, whatever the government does, are there legal risks in private vaccination enforcement measures? Their points are, in short:

Customers for services

  • the Occupier’s Liability Acts of 1957 and 1984 impose duties on business owners to take reasonable steps to ensure that any visitor will be reasonably safe in using their premises – this would of course include the duty to ensure that customers do not face an increased risk of contracting the C-19 virus
  • on the other hand, a business requiring a vaccine would be likely to be liable for indirect discrimination on the basis of age, “as most younger people simply do not have access to the vaccine yet”.
  • and then there are people, for example pregnant women, who cannot take the vaccine for health reasons.
  • a more unlikely scenario, but one still worth considering, is allowing people to avoid the vaccination on religious grounds. “A person with a specific belief against this vaccine or any vaccines may be protected under the Equality Act if they show their belief meets the standard of protected philosophical belief.”

Employees/prospective employees

  • employers may be tempted not to appoint a non-vaccinated candidate, or even subject existing employees to disciplinary action for failing to take the vaccine
  • Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights may form the basis for a claim that enforced vaccinations are a breach of the right to autonomy and bodily integrity
  • GDPR defines as “special category data” any details about the personal medical health of an individual. There may be public health justifications that employers could advance for storing this information, but “this will need to be reflected in privacy policies once a decision is made, to proceed in this way.”

As the authors of this report observe, at the time of writing, the UK does not appear to be going down the route of requiring vaccines by law. More importantly, the report points out that

It is arguable that this [mandatory vaccination] is forbidden under section 45E Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, which forbids regulations requiring a person to undergo medical treatment, which includes vaccination. [my emphasis].

And, finally, on a practical note, the authors of the report that one “can already anticipate” even more pressure on the NHS, in the form of

GPs being overwhelmed by requests for letters confirming their patients have received vaccinations.


  1. Adrian says:

    When does an individual’s human rights trump the human rights of others in respect of the protection of health?

  2. Jane GOLDING says:

    The COVID vaccines are officially clinical trials. The end dates can be found on the relevant clinical trials documents. For Pfizer, it appears to be January 31, 2023; for AstraZeneca, February 21, 2023. I do not see how anyone can be forced to take part in what is still officially a clinical trial, discriminated against if they choose not to do so, or coerced into it by “vaccine passports” etc. Surely this contravenes human rights agreements such as the Nuremberg Code, The UNESCO declaration on bioethics and human rights and even the Council of Europe’s recent statement, which says (with regard to high vaccine uptake):

    “7.3.1 ensure that citizens are informed that the vaccination is NOT mandatory and that no one is politically, socially, or otherwise pressured to get themselves vaccinated, if they do not wish to do so themselves;
    7.3.2 ensure that no one is discriminated against for not having been vaccinated, due to possible health risks or not wanting to be vaccinated;”

    How can it therefore be justified for employers to demand that employees are vaccinated or that a vaccine passport is required for travel or domestic purposes?

    Comparison is made to the Yellow Fever vaccine, which is mandatory for travel to some countries, but that is not a clinical trial.

    Any lawyers please advise!

  3. clive71 says:

    Interesting to see how the year-long manipulation and depression of mass morale has had its cunning effect. Is everyone so weary that any trumpeted ‘solution’, even a rushed, experimental, doubtful ‘vaccine’ should be debated as needing to become compulsory – no doubt to ‘keep us safe’?

    We will need the extra 20,000 Police officers which May removed from office when she was Home Secretary. W will need three here in my home city to make me take a compulsory vaccine – two to restrain me, and the third to Tazer me whilst a no-doubt minimally qualified person administers this latest – and recurring – poison.

  4. L Buchan says:

    How about: bodily integrity is a fundamental right. Period.

  5. David says:

    I have to say that it is surprising that as a spokesperson for UK Human Rights, this article is written in an apologetic manner and stops short of defending human rights with clarity and vigour. I am surprised!

  6. Barbara S says:

    how about grounding your argument re vaccination hesitancy in the discussion of unwanted effects of vaccines (allergic reactions, long-term effects on cardiovascular risks and other systemic ill effects – I can provide sources for those points) however likely or unlikely they are going to be – .

    1. Barbara S says:

      … or grounding it in the disputable efficacy of the vaccination when weeks ago the govt said on their web site the virus was on its way to become resistant ? I hope grounding in reality is not something alien to your thinking, juggling supposedly lofty arguments as to some extent you have to?

  7. What about the Nuremberg Code, which requires informed consent on th part of human subjects of medical experiments?

    1. Barbara S says:

      a difficult point to make when the ‘experimentation’ is vehemently denied and smoke-screened. Without a background in law, I would think it more likely to argue some liberal traces in paternalism – and with all the doubts about efficacy of vaccination as the only ph strategy?

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