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Introduction

Mandatory vaccination is a highly debatable issue among individuals, even for healthcare professionals. Disease outbreaks, such as the Covid-19 virus spread, cause many deaths and huge economic losses. While coercing people to be vaccinated is a controversial topic, it helps to address these issues. Even though a vaccine mandate violates individual rights, it becomes a public health necessity if a disease poses a grave danger to the whole society, protecting other people and compromising the herd immunity of the population.

Mitigating a Grave Risk

If the pandemic poses a grave danger to the community, then coercing people to be vaccinated is necessary to protect public health. In cases when a disease outbreak poses a great risk to public health, the vaccine causes no harm and is effective, and proportionality in the advantages and disadvantages is ensured, then a vaccine mandate is justifiable (Savulescu 2020 p. 78). The policy can be adopted if the process presents more benefits and if further restrictions on personal liberty lead to greater gains in protecting the overall health of the population. While some people oppose mandatory vaccination on the basis of their personal liberty, this aspect can be justifiably infringed if the risk on one or a few individuals is insignificant or small, but the process helps to prevent harm to the larger population (Savulescu 2020, p. 82). To attain any benefits, the alternatives that present lower restrictions on individual rights are considered. Therefore, mandatory vaccination can be ethical if it helps to stop potentially severe consequences of a specific disease.

Mandatory Vaccinations: A Public Health Necessity or Personal Liberty Infringement

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Reducing Harm to Other Individuals

The need to protect other people makes mandatory vaccination a necessity, even if it means restricting personal liberty. People can be justifiably forced to be vaccinated to mitigate the risk of causing harm to others (King, Ferraz & Jones 2021, p. 220). In this case, coercion helps to reduce the dangers that a disease poses to the entire population. Agreeably, mandatory vaccination leads to violation of the fundamental rights of individuals (King, Ferraz & Jones 2021, p. 221). However, if governments follow a careful design based on clear laws developed after proper consultations, there will be little and justifiable infringement of personal liberty. As a result, mandatory vaccination can be ethical if it is done appropriately to protect the public from possible harm.

Herd Immunity

Mandatory vaccination should be allowed if the herd immunity of the community has been compromised. If herd immunity, which refers to a situation when a large percentage of the population is immune to a particular disease, is not attained, then mandatory vaccination becomes a necessity since many people face a grave danger (Dunne & Spain2022, p. 224). This measure helps to protect all people, including those who cannot be vaccinated due to various reasons, such as medical conditions. However, some individuals have no trust in the government and pharmaceutical companies and are also concerned about the safety of vaccines (Dunne & Spain 2022, p. 222). These issues can be addressed through public education and comprehensive pharmacovigilance. Hence, it can be ethical to force people to be vaccinated if it is a case of protecting the entire population.

Conclusion

In some cases, coercing people to be vaccinated and infringing their individual rights is a public health necessity that should be considered if a disease outbreak gravely endangers the entire population, harms other people, and lowers the level of herd immunity. While pandemics threaten the health of the entire population, the failure to vaccinate people may lead to a higher rate of spread of the disease. Thus, a vaccine mandate may be necessary to protect the entire population, especially if many people are affected.

Reference List

Dunne, CP & Spain, E 2022, ‘Compulsory vaccination against COVID-19: A legal and ethical perspective on public good versus personal reticence’, Irish Journal of Medical Science, vol. 192, pp. 221–226, viewed 12 August 2023, DOI:10.1007/s11845-022-02942-x.

King, J, Ferraz, OLM & Jones, A 2021, ‘Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination and human rights’, The Lancet, vol. 399, no. 10321, pp. 220–222, viewed 12 August 2023, DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02873-7.

Savulescu, J 2020, ‘Good reasons to vaccinate: Mandatory or payment for risk.’, Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 76–85, viewed 12 August 2023, DOI:10.1136/medethics-2020-106821.

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