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Vaccinations: A choice or an obligation? Information Ethical challenges surrounding vaccinations

-Written by ICIE Youth Ambassador Ms Ufulu Martha-Junior Chisale


South Africa has started its roll out for its national Covid-19 vaccine programme. This programme aims to vaccinate 60 million South Africans. According to the government, the programme entails procurement, distribution, vaccination, monitoring, communication and mobilisation. The roll out plan stated that young people between the ages of 18-34 years will be able to get vaccinated from 1 September 2021, in South Africa. This date was pushed forward to the 20th of August 2021. This category of people are considered as the youth population of the country.


Issue of access and health have protruded through this time. We have seen how information communication technologies (ICTs) in health have supported the cause but have been noted as a tool magnifying to differentiate between the have’s and the have 'nots'. Which in essence highlights the effects of digital divide. Efforts were made to provide a platform towards access in the hopes to close this gap. It is undeniable that we live in a society driven by information. This means that we are living in a information society. This social structure has been influenced greatly by ICTs. As this social structure grows, so will the divide if the necessary structures aren’t in place in the hope to live in a inclusive society.


In 2019, the world was taken by storm when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Most people had not anticipated the impact and its outcomes. No one expected the virus to spread as rapidly and as deadly as it did. Fast forward, vaccination roll-outs and implementation are the topic at hand. This has brought forward mixed emotions and reactions from different individuals. As a social structure, we noticed how the information society has been greatly impacted by this virus. The information society is complex and it’s global dimensions are forever evolving.


The vaccination roll out has some individuals excited and ready to be vaccinated, whereas others are reluctant, and others are indifferent. History has proven that the execution of vaccination programmes and procedures are a lengthy process which needs to be tried and tested several times before the final result is distributed for human use.


The reluctance of individuals varies and covers a large scope in context, from science, personal conviction, fear, and other unknown reasons which are not disclosed.

The mixed response from individuals has also brought forth challenges in governing structures. What is the government’s role in ensuring the best for its citizens?


The South African Constitution is considered as one of the best in the world. It has been seen as a model of law and it seeks to establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. The constitution speaks to human rights and seeks to support each citizen’s basic human rights. Among these, is freedom of choice. This applies to implementations of efforts such as vaccinations.


According to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights Section 12, it speaks to the right to freedom and security of the person. It states that everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right:

  1. to security in and control over their body; and

  2. not to be forced to participate in medical or scientific experiments.

In addition to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights Section 16 speaks to the Freedom of Expression which states that Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes:

  1. freedom of the press and other media;

  2. freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;

  3. freedom of artistic creativity; and

  4. academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

With these rights, comes great responsibility. Each citizen has the freedom to choose what information they accept or decline.


Vaccinations are not compulsory in South Africa, however, over the years, it has been considered to hold significant benefits for both individuals and for the community.

An information ethical dilemma occurs when confusing/opposing/misleading information is presented which affects decision-making. This can be exacerbated by the fact that the Covid-19 vaccine is administered to citizens with the intention of protecting individuals and its communities, and not with the intention to cause harm.


Moving forward, it is the responsibility of each citizen to be fully informed about vaccinations in order for them to make sound decisions. Whether they choose to go forward with being vaccinated or not, it should be made on sound information.

Due to the influx of information which has been shared on vaccinations, individuals are encouraged to distinguish between fact, misinformation and disinformation.


Misinformation | Disinformation | Fact

Misinformation refers to false or out-of-context information that is presented as fact regardless of an intent to deceive.

  • Disinformation is a type of misinformation that is intentionally false and intended to deceive or mislead.

  • Fact: A thing that is known or proved to be true.

Both misinformation and disinformation involve the sharing of bad or debunked information, with varying intents and purposes. We have seen how any kind of information can spread like a wildfire, be it factual or not. It’s up to each individual to question the validity of the information they receive and choose to share

Each individual needs to ask themselves the following questions when it comes to the reliability of information they receive:

  1. Is it factual?

  2. Is it timely?

  3. Is it accurate?

  4. Is it consistent?

  5. Is it from a reputable source?

Meira Gebel wrote an insightful piece on the topic of misinformation and disinformation.


For more information on misinformation, follow this link:

https://www.google.co.za/amp/s/www.businessinsider.com/misinformation-vs-disinformation%3famp


To further address and mitigate the effects of misinformation and disinformation during this pandemic, UNESCO MIL Alliance wrote a statement in response to Covid-19:

https://en.unesco.org/themes/media-and-information-literacy/gapmil/covid19


It is up to each individual to make an informed decision based on truthful, factual and complete information. Whether they choose to get vaccinated or not. It is their constitutional right to make a decision that is for, or against vaccinations.


-Written by ICIE Youth Ambassador Ms Ufulu Martha-Junior Chisale




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