Civil servants uproar on State threat over vaccine

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021 00:00 |
Immunisation specialist Lucy Kamja administers a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab to TSC boss Nancy Macharia during the launch of Cocid-19 vaccination for teachers in Nairobi in March. Photo/PD/File

A government directive threatening disciplinary action on civil servants who would not have been vaccinated in 13 days has been met with furore from public officers and their representatives.

The government has asked all civil servants to take the Covid-19 vaccines before, or on August 23, or risk disciplinary action.

The directive contained in a circular released on Monday night by the Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua and  signed on August 5, has  caused sharp reactions from civil servants across the country.

Kinyua’s circular directed all Principal Secretaries and Accounting Officers to ensure all officers serving under their jurisdiction take the Covid-19 vaccine before, or on August 23 failing to which disciplinary action is taken against them.

“In a recent National Security Advisory Committee meeting, it was reported that there was a low uptake of Covid-19 vaccines among public servants especially in the security sector, teachers and the core civil service,” Kinyua said in the circular noting it was against a background of access to vaccines having greatly improved especially among these groups.

Working from home

The head of public service expressed concern that some public servants had deliberately avoided getting the vaccine so that they could stay away from work under the guise of working from home.

“This has negatively affected service delivery to the public,” he stated even as multinational companies have started to lay off staff who have not been vaccinated against the deadly virus with the US’s Cable News Network (CNN) sacking three employees who reported to work without being vaccinated last week.

In view of the foregoing, Kinyua said that it had been decided all civil servants will now be prioritised in the ongoing vaccination exercise and those who will not have been given the first jab by August 23 2021, be treated as discipline cases.

Kinyua warns appropriate action will be taken against them.

“Principal Secretaries/Accounting officers are hereby instructed to ensure full implementation of this decision,” Kinyua stated.

The directive comes a week after the government announced more centres where Kenyans can access the vaccine for free.

However, in response to the directive civil servants through the Union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS), while welcoming the directive, have protested the imposition of a deadline and what they termed as a threat to punish those who fail to be vaccinated.

The Kenya Union of Civil Servants Secretary General, Tom Odege said that while it is important for civil servants to be vaccinated, imposing a deadline and threats is wrong.

“Forcing people to be vaccinated is wrong because it violates their basic human rights and liberties to make decisions on whether to take the vaccine or not. In the first place, it’s the government that said vaccination against Covid is an optional thing,” he said.

Odege maintained  that people cannot be forced to vaccinate.

“In my opinion, it could have been fair for the government to advocate for people to see the importance of being vaccinated in order to be protected from the pandemic, but we cannot make it a law and threaten people with disciplinary action.

“What Kinyua could have done was to talk to us and ask us to go and explain to people to understand that it is  important to be protected and it is important to work for the government, but coming out in a manner to suggest that you will be disciplined is wrong and as a Union we are not going to accept,” he argued.

He said they were not even consulted as a union so that they can see how it can be done in a balanced way, without confrontation.

Test people first 

Jerry ole Kina, the union’s assistant secretary general called on the government to put in place measures to test people before they are vaccinated in order to know the status of a civil servant instead of forcing them to take the jab.

“Taking it or not is a form of expression that’s enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

As a Union we are advising our members to screen for Covid, then make a decision to vaccinate because it’s generally important,” he said.

Ole Kina said to test first is important in order to avoid other issues such as having people with underlined conditions being affected rather than being protected.

Meanwhile, we are in the process of engaging the employer, he added.

Should the government make the threats real, it would have followed in the path of some firms in the United States that have issued ultimatums to their employees to either take the jab or be laid off. 

In the US, as mandatory COVID-19 vaccines become more widespread, many employers are asking what they can do if workers refuse to be vaccinated.

Some employers are firing workers who won’t take the vaccine and others are requiring unvaccinated employees to submit to weekly testing and take other safety precautions.

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