The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) is disturbed by reports that people who do not have national identity cards (IDs) are being denied access to COVID-19 vaccines. CHRR urges the Ministry of Health to urgently remove the mandatory requirement for Malawians to present national ID cards before receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
According to available data, over 3 million Malawians do not have national IDs. If the mandatory requirement is maintained, it means millions of Malawians would miss out on the vaccine, which will be too bad for a country that is already struggling to get more people to get the jab.
Statistics show that less than 2 percent of the country’s population are fully vaccinated. In a country where uptake of COVID-19 vaccines is that low, it is vital that authorities should be removing all obstacles and structural barriers, like the national ID requirement, to ensure that more people access the vaccines. While we understand that the national ID maybe necessary for capturing data, it is violation of human rights to deny people who do not have the ID access to the vaccines.
Access to health services, including COVID vaccines, is a basic human right and should, therefore, not be conditioned upon possessing national IDs. COVID-19 does not discriminate between those with national IDs and those without. As CHRR, we are surprised why government is maintaining the national ID requirement for people to access vaccines. Currently, millions of Malawians are without national IDs, not because of choice, but because of administration challenges in processing the national IDs. There are also many Malawians who cannot afford a national ID due to costs that government charges to process the IDs. Then there are people who face difficulties accessing the national ID due to mobility challenges (as is often the case for persons with disabilities and elderly). Therefore, maintaining the national ID requirement for accessing vaccines will unfairly disadvantage those who cannot afford the national IDs, which will in turn end up deepening already existing inequalities in our society.
The Constitution is clear about non-discrimination. Under section 20(1) of the Constitution, discrimination in any form is prohibited. In our view, making possession of a national ID a prerequisite for one to receive vaccines is a form of discrimination, and is, therefore, unconstitutional.
You cannot precondition the enjoyments of basic rights, such as the rights to life and health, on whether someone has a national ID or not. It is against this background that we urge the government, through the ministry of health, to urgently remove the nation ID requirement for people to access COVID-19 vaccines.
Signed today, 18th August, 2021 by: