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Is the govt’s No Vax, No Ride policy fair?

Is the govt’s No Vax, No Ride policy fair?

Botchi Santos

In the government’s latest measure to counter the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic whilst striving to maintain normalcy and keep the local economy afloat, the powers that be through the MMDA and DOTr have decided to ban unvaccinated individuals from riding public transportation.

People who wish to use public transport, particularly the trains and buses will be required to present their vaccination card prior to boarding as proof of vaccination.

But this begs the question: is such a measure fair, lawful and constitutional?

Freedom of movement is a very basic human right, a necessity for all even during these difficult times. By controlling our movement, isn’t this a violation of one of our basic human rights? To get vaccinated (or not) is in itself, an even more basic human right: the right to choose our own destiny.

Some will say that these are special times, and that special times call for special needs and measures to combat the dangers the greater majority face. In other countries, governments have also begun limiting movement for non-vaccinated individuals, and are planning to impose additional taxes and penalties on those who refuse vaccination, particularly for countries that offer a free universal healthcare plan for its citizens. The argument is that unvaccinated individuals, when infected with COVID-19, provide unnecessary burden that could have been mitigated if the individual was vaccinated, de-escalating a severe case from severe to moderate or even mild. Unvaccinated individuals are also more likely to catch and develop a more severe form of the coronavirus and act as more potent carriers of the virus, spreading it far more effectively and more viciously to an unknowing public. That’s why many pro-vaxxers are also in favor of preventing un-vaccinated individuals from riding the already very crowded public transport.

In the Philippines, another argument would be to unburden the already very labored healthcare and medical sector of our society as doctors, nurses and other medical frontliners risk life and limb to deliver quality life-saving care especially for critical and severe COVID19 patients all over the country. Every healthcare worker will tell you to get vaccinated, and if you belong to the very rare group of individuals who cannot be vaccinated yet for legitimate health reasons, you should stay home as you have absolutely no business being out and about.

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The Department of Transportation, for its part, claims that the ‘no vaxx, no ride’ policy aims to protect the general interest of the larger riding public as well as the pubic transport system operators by preventing another shutdown caused by mass infection similar to the Delta outbreak in 2021 which saw the MRT3, LRT lines and the PNR shutdown, leaving hundreds of thousands, if not millions practically immobile for weeks. The DOTr also claims that unvaccinated individuals aren’t technically being prevented from travel as they can still use other means of private transportation should they wish to, and for unvaccinated individuals who need to travel and ride the public transport to seek essential goods and services, they need to present proof to do so and will thus be allowed to ride.

While DOTr claims that this “no vacs, no ride policy” aims to be of benefit to the greater majority, the government fails to provide for those who rely on pubic transport, and that is the sad part. While the law itself isn’t perfect, a segment or minority will always have to suffer for the greater good of the majority, the benefits of which are difficult to measure, if at all.

Then there is the issue of fake or fraudulent vaccination cards which are so very easy to make. How does one verify the authenticity of vaccination cards? This just opens up to even more questions, more avenues for corruption and even further confusion.