Vaccination obligation, where is the limit between the interest of the community and respect for the individual?

by Renato Turturro *

The Constitutional Court has ruled several times on the matter of health treatments, outlining the conditions for this the vaccination obligation can be considered compatible with the principles of Article 32 of the Constitution:

1. if the treatment is aimed not only at improving or preserving the state of health of those subjected to it, but also at preserving the state of health of others (judgment 1990, no. 307);

2. if the provision that it does not negatively affect the state of health of the person subjected to it, except for those only temporary and minor consequences.

Where and how to place the boundary between the interest of the community and respect for the individual? How can these questions be extended to the theme of work? The guarantor of this balance should be the State, which through its powers and its bodies should express itself on the matter. But reality tells us that, excluding the obligation introduced for health workers through the legislative decree 44/2021, the issue in the workplace is treated indirectly across the green pass in an instrumental way by employers and many political parties, creating confusion between devices and preventive measures.

In this phase of probable third extended dose, the world of work – if left to bargaining between the parties and to the interpretation of part of the existing labor law rules – risks undergoing further steps towards impoverishment and injustice to the detriment of the workforce. The tensions and resistance towards the vaccination campaign, the experimentation, the lack of clarity sometimes, have reasons in the widespread distrust of the relationship between science and power. Because the attitude of distrust towards the other vaccines is not so widespread?

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In the past, the attitude of the population, in particular that of male and female workers, was one of struggle for access to scientific knowledge, treatment and public health care. The desire to bend science to the interests of the workers and of the historically excluded majority was the engine that moved the confidence that we could really transform the world. Perhaps the reasons for today’s mistrust and suspicion lie in the collapse of structures and organizations, in the fragmentation and atomization of the workforce and the consequent perceived powerlessness to govern the increasingly complex phenomena.

An example. The Law of 05/03/1963 n. 292 on the tetanus vaccination mandatory, in art. 1 establishes all work activities for which the vaccine is mandatory, there are many sectors of its field of application such as waste handling, paper and cardboard manufacturing, woodworking, metallurgy and engineering, agricultural processing, and others. The mandatory nature of the tetanus vaccine is now bound to the health surveillance protocol (Article 41 of Legislative Decree 81/08) provided in the pre-hiring or preventive phase by the competent doctor or local health authorities. Some answers to the previous questions can still be found in the Legislative Decree 81/08. Article 279, in fact, provides for the management of a risk of infection deriving from “a biological agent present in the processing”. The ubiquity and dangerousness of tetanus have been socially accepted without suspicion, because its knowledge is born in a historical and social context characterized by a strong social participation in scientific and health issues.

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In the case of Covid-19, however, the agent is perceived as something coming from outside, far from usual contexts and not contemplated in the work process. Impactful and sudden, for which there is no consolidated knowledge of its performance. The two infectious diseases differ mainly on the transmissibility, effectively involving the relationship between individual health and community health. The self and the other.

The SARS-Cov2 virus, excluding the health environment (biological risk), does not yet have a definitive place in the jurisprudential debate. Making the mistake of not realizing the implications and the exploitation which this entails in the right to health and work (see proposal on layoffs linked to vaccination), will transform the scenario into a substantial increase in “atomic individualism”. The data tell us that there is awareness of the vaccine, it is necessary to detach health and work from the real suspicion that the profit system generates. But humanity’s problems have no answers except in humanity itself.

* ASL prevention technician. I deal with health and safety at work with all the passion that this topic deserves. I grew up between stories and direct experiences of migrations, stories of the labor and labor movement. I write articles and stories about the world of work, because only the power of the workforce, often invisible, can free it from injustices

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