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Executive Summary: ECUADOR ENFORCES MANDATORY VACCINATION

Updated: Jan 27

Marina Tovar, Counterintelligence and Cyber Team; Jennifer Kelly, IFET Team; Martyna Dobrowolska, Iris Raith, EUCOM Team; Annabelle Hueber, Weapons and Tactics Team; Yehudah Mehlman, Muskan Muskan, Mohammad Ali, CENTCOM Team; Beatriz Adell Quesada, Angeliki Siafaka, Behavior/Leadership Team; Alyssa Schmidt, Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards (EMH2) Team

Week of Monday, January 10, 2022

Vaccination[1]


Ecuador has implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for citizens aged five and older to protect against the disease and limit severe symptoms, except those with a medical condition or an incompatibility, who will have to present certification to accredit that.[2] The Omicron variant has proven to be highly transmissible and has spread rapidly throughout countries, causing global concern, particularly for unvaccinated individuals.[3] If the virus continues to spread, hospitals will very likely be overwhelmed, almost certainly impacting access to treatment. An increase in the vaccinated population in Ecuador will likely limit hospitalizations and deaths. However, the entire population is unlikely to be accounted for, and it is unlikely that everyone will comply with the mandate. The vaccine mandate will very likely provoke resistance from the unvaccinated community in Ecuador through protests.


As of December 23, 2021, vaccines have been made compulsory for all citizens living in Ecuador aged over five years old, except those with medical exemptions.[4] Citizens unwilling to get vaccinated will likely create false documents proving a medical condition or incompatibility to avoid the mandatory vaccination. The creation of these fake certificates will likely come from organized crime groups, falsification experts, or doctors for financial gain. The creation of the fake certificates will likely lead to the government’s vaccination goals not being met, hampering the immunization of the population.


According to the Ecuadorian Organic Health Law, the Ecuadorian government can enforce mandatory vaccines for diseases depending on epidemiological needs.[5] The government will likely have to create an appropriate vaccination program and share it with the population to ensure the program’s approval and legitimacy. A lack of transparency in preparing this plan will likely generate opposition and mistrust from the population, which will very likely result in citizens not following the vaccine mandate. The government has also cited Article 83.7 of the Ecuadorian Constitution, which imposes the duty to promote the common good and place the general interest prior to the particular interest.[6] Those who oppose the government will likely question this measure, claiming the executive branch exceeds its powers, citing Article 16 of the Ecuadorian Constitution, where citizens have the individual right to freedom of expression and choice.[7] If such a debate arises on this issue, the population would very likely question the legitimacy of the Ecuadorian government.


Following the introduction of the mandatory vaccine mandate, it is likely the Ecuadorian political climate will also change. The vaccine mandate will likely initiate a national political debate, followed by calls for a change in government or the replacement of individual ministers. Political debates between governing parties and opposition are likely to intensify, given the competition among parties to represent and gain voters, especially before future elections. Consequently, continuous actions like the Ecuadorian mandate will almost certainly influence decisions amongst the world’s governments. If Ecuador’s mandate implementation leads to tensions among parties and the general population, countries that are planning similar steps will likely retract or at least delay mandatory vaccination.


Vaccine mandates have already led to large street protests in several countries, including the United States (US), where thousands of people have protested against vaccine mandates.[8] Citizens in Ecuador will very likely organize similar protests against vaccine mandates, almost certainly increasing the spread of COVID-19 among the population if protesters fail to follow social distancing measures. As it is very unlikely the protesters will be vaccinated, a rise in cases among the crowds will very likely lead to increased rates of hospitalizations. As of January 10, 2022, intensive care units in Guayas and Pichincha, two provinces in Ecuador, are at maximum capacity due to COVID-19.[9] As such, hospitals will very likely experience a further shortage of beds following large protests, leading to a more significant risk for the general population who require hospitalization for non-COVID-19 reasons. Large protests will also likely increase the risk of violence on the streets due to high tensions among the protestors, which almost certainly heightens the pressure on law enforcement to contain the violence. Criminal activity, including drug trafficking, will very likely increase if law enforcement’s attention and resources are directed away from organized crime and towards anti-vaccine mandate protests.


At least 97% of the Ecuadorian population older than 18 years old would be “willing to accept” a COVID-19 vaccine[10], while 80.5% are vaccinated.[11] This likely indicates that a proportion of the unvaccinated Ecuadorian population does not have a strong aversion to being vaccinated and instead likely did not get the vaccine out of indifference or a perceived lack of urgency. Mandatory vaccination will almost certainly lead to an increase in the immunization of the population, as individuals who were previously indifferent towards getting vaccinated will now very likely opt for vaccination due to fear of legal sanctions. This suggests that an increased proportion of society will very likely have less severe COVID-19 symptoms, making it less likely that they will require hospitalization. Despite the likely protests by individuals who are strongly averse to COVID-19 vaccination, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 will likely decrease.


The Ecuadorian government will very likely gain public support in tackling the spread of COVID-19 by promoting campaigns that aim to raise citizens’ awareness of the danger connected with the spread of COVID-19 and the importance of vaccination. Community engagement will very likely help prevent the spread of anti-vaccine narratives, especially if people are encouraged to personally double-check sources and dedicate time for personal research about the benefits of getting vaccinated. By adopting diversified ways of communication to different socio-cultural contexts, public trust in COVID-19 vaccination will likely rise, and the Ecuadorian government will very likely achieve complete immunization.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends the Ecuadorian government to include indigenous populations in the COVID-19 vaccine campaign, as they experience socio-economic marginalization worldwide and lack adequate health services, likely being at higher risk of being infected.[12] The Ecuadorian government should allocate resources in hiring volunteers to circulate and administer the vaccines. These volunteers should complete mandatory training, which will very likely reduce pressure on healthcare professionals. The government should take a similar approach to EU countries regarding digitizing healthcare data, such as digital certificates, and the online administration of vaccine certificates will likely provide a better overview of the percentage of vaccinated individuals. The authorities should introduce QR-codes to verify the authenticity of vaccination certificates issued by the government to avoid fraudulent documents. CTG recommends that the Ecuadorian government impose criminal and financial penalties for using and creating fake vaccination certificates.


CTG’s SOUTHCOM and Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards (EMH2) Teams will continue to monitor this situation for developments. Future reports will focus on the implications of this event and the spread of COVID-19. CTG will remain vigilant regarding future developments of the mandatory vaccine mandate and analyze the outcome to provide recommendations to law enforcement agencies and public organizations. CTG’s Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H) Officers will remain vigilant in monitoring potential protests due to the mandate and provide up-to-date information on the events.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is a subdivision of the global consulting firm Paladin 7. CTG has a developed business acumen that proactively identifies and counteracts the threat of terrorism through intelligence and investigative products. Business development resources can now be accessed via the Counter Threat Center (CTC), emerging Fall 2021. The CTG produces W.A.T.C.H resources using daily threat intelligence, also designed to complement CTG specialty reports which utilize analytical and scenario-based planning. Innovation must accommodate political, financial, and cyber threats to maintain a level of business continuity, regardless of unplanned incidents that may take critical systems offline. To find out more about our products and services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.

 

[1]Closeup of woman’s arm about to receive vaccine” by Self Magazine licensed under CC BY 2.0

[2] Ecuador makes vaccination mandatory for most citizens, BBC, December 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-59772299

[3] WHO says Omicron in 89 countries and spreading rapidly, The Guardian, December 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/18/who-says-omicron-in-89-countries-and-spreading-rapidly

[4] Ecuador makes COVID-19 vaccination obligatory, Reuters, December 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/ecuador-makes-covid-19-vaccination-obligatory-2021-12-23/

[5] Ecuador declara obligatoria la vacunación contra la covid-19, El País, December 2021, https://elpais.com/internacional/2021-12-23/ecuador-declara-obligatoria-la-vacunacion-contra-la-covid-19.html (translated by Marina Tovar)

[6] Ibid

[7] “Constitución del Ecuador,” Gobierno de Ecuador, 2008, https://educacion.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/08/Constitucion.pdf (translated by Marina Tovar)

[8] As Biden vaccine mandates loom, protests for personal freedoms swell. What happens next?, USA Today, October 2021, https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/10/29/biden-vaccine-mandates-loom-protests-personal-freedoms-swell/8539853002/

[9] Guayas and Pichincha have intensive care units to the maximum due to COVID-19, Ecuavisa, January 2022, https://www.ecuavisa.com/noticias/ecuador/guayas-y-pichincha-tienen-las-unidades-de-cuidados-intensivos-al-maximo-por-covid-19-CD1234765 (translated by Google)

[10] “The demand for a COVID-19 vaccine in Ecuador,” Vaccine, 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7832521/

[11] Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations, Our World in Data, January 2022, https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations?country=ECU

[12] Indigenous People are a High Priority to Receive COVID-19 Vaccinations, First Nations Health Authority, April 2021, https://www.fnha.ca/about/news-and-events/news/indigenous-people-are-a-high-priority-to-receive-covid-19-vaccinations

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