A new Public Health Law will not pave the way for mandatory vaccination or the restriction of civil liberties, the Government Director spearheading the reforms has said.
Public Health Director Professor Peter Bradley made the comments as he provided an update on the drafting process of the new law, which recently went out for consultation and received more than 350 responses.
The law is intended to be an update to the ‘Loi sur la Santé Publique,’ the public health law that has been used in Jersey since 1934.
While the control of infectious diseases and viruses is a topic that has come to the fore during the pandemic, Professor Bradley said that the pandemic was not the main driver behind the law.
The intention is for it to touch on “broader” areas of public health, including non-infectious diseases and health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, and how inequalities and social factors can have an effect. It could also enable a 'Jersey Needs Assessment' - a population-wide evaluation of the health needs of islanders and how far they are being met - to be carried out.
Pictured: Public Health Director Peter Bradley said that the new law was there to replace the 1934 law, which he described as "not fit for modern challenges."
In response to concerns expressed by members of the public previously about whether the lawcould breach civil liberties and allow enforced vaccinations, he emphasised that this would not be the case.
One of the principles of the law outlined in June was that it would “enable action to be taken in situations where infection or contamination presents, or could present, significant harm to human health, and where voluntary cooperation is not forthcoming”, as well as “provide adequate powers that, where necessary and appropriate, enable restrictions or requirements to be imposed in order to protect peoples’ health.”
“There were a number of responses about the concerns about civil liberties, but I think it’s been made very clear in the debate that followed those responses being made that this is not about areas which are going to affect civil liberties in the way people raised,” Professor Bradley said.
“So one issue that was raised about mandatory vaccination, and it’s been made absolutely clear by the Health Minister that that is not something we are going to consider.”
Giving an example, he said the particular aspect of the law which caused concern was “thinking much more about day to day situations - so if I give you an example, if we saw a person who had tuberculosis and maybe they had very a infectious form of that tuberculosis and we advised that they should be treated so they don’t infect other people.”
Pictured: The developing law is in response to factors such as 'health inequalities' and a rise in non-communicable disease.
He continued: “We need to take consideration in the law about what we might do if, for example, that person didn’t take that treatment, comes into the office… and think about what we might do to manage that.
"Obviously we would always try to work with the person to persuade them of the need for them to protect themselves and others, but it’s much more about that situation than the pandemic situation, which is clearly a very important area but it’s not really the intention of this law to cover.”
A second stage consultation will take place in late 2021, which will present detailed proposals to the public, taking into account the findings from the first, with a draft law lodged for debate in the second half of 2022.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, said: “We are grateful for this feedback as it provides valuable insight into Islanders’ views about the proposed new law.
“We all value good health and it is one of the Government’s priorities to improve the health and wellbeing of Islanders. The new law will enable the Government to make informed decisions which will ultimately keep Islanders safe and healthy.”
82% of respondents to the survey felt that there should be a process to evaluate the impact on public health when a new policy or legislation is being developed - this process has been labelled ‘Health in All Policies.’
71% of these people thought this should be for every new policy, while 29% thought it should only be for new laws or policies which potentially impact public health.
14% did not agree there should be any process to evaluate the impact at all, and 4% were unsure.
Similarly, 73% felt that the process should be required by law, with 20% disagreeing and 7% saying they were unsure.
A majority of respondents (50%) disagreed that the law should enable a declaration that a particular non-communicable disease - such as heart disease or diabetes - is of significance to public health.
40% slightly or strongly agreed, and 10% were unsure.
A majority similarly disagreed (62%) that if any disease was to be declared as significant, the law should allow the Government to develop codes that industry sectors, activities or communities would practice to reduce disease.
32% agreed or strongly agreed, and 5% remained unsure.
The majority (58%) of respondents thought it was important that Jersey have a ‘Jersey Needs Assessment’ that evaluates both the health needs of islanders and whether they were being met.
This support was in comparison to 32% who felt it was not very important or not important at all, and 10% who were unsure.
When asked specifically if a new legislation should require a ‘Jersey Needs Assessment’ to be produced, the response was slightly less certain, with 43% agreeing, 37% disagreeing, and 20% remaining unsure.
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