Costa Rica Takes the Lead in COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

Via Casa Presidencial.

By Marina Santos, 2L

Earlier this year, as the COVID-19 infection rates declined, many were hopeful for a return to “normal.” However, the introduction and spread of the Delta variant put people on their toes once more. After spikes of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, there has been lots of speculation regarding whether governments across the globe would implement vaccine mandates. Although a very sensitive and tricky issue to most countries, Costa Rica was decisive.

On September 28, 2021, the Health Ministry of Costa Rica announced the approval of mandatory vaccinations for all public sector workers in the country. Private sector employers may also choose to implement the mandate to their employees and are encouraged to do so. Recently, Costa Rica mandated the vaccine for Health Ministry workers, Costa Rican Social Security Fund employees, The Red Cross, and others who work in health and patient care.

What happens if workers still refuse the shot? While that answer is unclear, the definitive measures and guidelines will be published on October 15. However, the government has already stated they will give those workers opposed to the vaccine a chance before turning to disciplinary actions. The step-by-step plan includes educating employees on the benefits of the vaccine, warning employees of the consequences if they refuse, and, eventually, examining proper repercussions. It is crucial to note, however, that this measure will not apply to people with proven medical conditionswho could be harmed if vaccinated.

This mandate comes after another wave of the virus in Costa Rica, along with the spike of Delta. According to the CDC, Costa Rica has had over 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6,349 deaths since March 2, 2020. Hospitals are currently operating but with limited capacity due to a recent rise in COVID-19 infections. The National Commission for Vaccination and Epidemiology approved the mandatory vaccinations based on “epidemiological variables such as the number of Covid-19 cases, the mortality of the disease, the increased circulation of the Delta variant and the high hospital occupancy, which is impacted to a greater extent by patients who are not vaccinated,” the Health Ministry statement reads. Costa Rica has long mandated other vaccines including measles, rubella, tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, influenza, and more. Inoculating in accordance to guidelines is part of the “duties of protection and care” of Costa Ricans.

Costa Rica is one of the first countries in Latin America to implement such measures; it will be interesting to see which countries, if any, follow suit.

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