Vaccine mandates are unjust

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Photo by Annabelle Nicholas

There is a question today that holds special importance for our country’s future: should those in positions of authority impose the COVID-19 vaccines upon the populace? President Biden and a sizable portion of our country passionately back this idea. 

This ought to give us significant pause. It is a question of who ought to make the decisions at the most basic level: the individual or the government. 

I argue that decisions regarding medical treatment, such as vaccination, are among the most basic, and ought to rest entirely in the hands of the individual.

There are many today whose jobs and futures are threatened because of their commitment to their conscience. This is a gross injustice, for it is against a person’s bodily autonomy and civil liberties to remove their right to make their own medical decisions. 

It is not moral to force someone to take the COVID-19 vaccine. There is no correspondence between the lack of vaccination of one individual and another’s infection and death. 

Rather, such a mandate suppresses autonomy and individual choice. At the expense of civil liberties, mandated vaccination is a cure that is more extreme than the harm. 

Have we gotten to a place where mandated vaccination is necessary? Acknowledging the fact that there are differing opinions about the magnitude of COVID-19 and the proper means of treating it, let us assume that COVID-19 merits a large-scale effort for vaccination in our country.

Let us firstly ask if it is necessary that everyone be vaccinated in order to achieve the desired goal of reducing spreading. That is not so evident. Additionally, it is not clear that even a 100% rate of vaccination would end the issue. Should we then mandate each booster and new vaccine that comes out? 

There must be other courses of action. I believe that we must maintain the practice of allowing an exemption, if nothing else. Since vaccination is a matter of protecting oneself, anyone can get the vaccine if they so wish, but it must remain a private choice. 

I believe that the push for mandates has come into the public square here in the US because we are incredibly politically polarized. The means of increasing unity does not lie in mandates, for they will inevitably cause division, and are already doing so. 

Vaccine mandates will only serve to drive the country further apart, creating classes of the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, and grossly removing the bulwark of civil liberties that our forefathers fought to establish.

What is the balance between one’s conscience and the greater good? I believe that COVID-19 does not merit the removal of one’s right to pursue the dictates of their conscience. 

Individual conscience must be sacrificed to the greater good only if the dictates of conscience endanger the rights and life/livelihood of another. In this case, I think it is too extreme to say that not being vaccinated is against another’s life/livelihood, and additionally, a mandate is precisely against the rights of the individual who is forced to be vaccinated. 

As a nation, we must look beyond the caricature of a group who are portrayed as uncaring of the well-being of others.Those who reject the COVID-19 vaccine mandates are making difficult decisions out of firm principle and love of country. For them, what we face is not simply a health crisis, but a crisis that is already transforming our political rights, and not only these, but our moral principles as a nation. 

2 COMMENTS

  1. “It is not moral to force someone to take the COVID-19 vaccine. There is no correspondence between the lack of vaccination of one individual and another’s infection and death.”

    The entire argument in this article rests on the validity of this claim. I cannot help but notice that the author provides no justification or evidence to support it besides bare assertion. I would submit that this is because it is a completely ridiculous and patently false statement. The nature of communicable diseases mean that unvaccinated people pose an elevated health risk to the community by increasing the number of transmission vectors and weakening the herd immunity effects that protect those for whom vaccination is either medically contraindicated or unsuccessful.

    You can argue that mandates are ineffective or legally dubious given the current balance of power in the court system. I don’t necessarily buy those arguments, but they’re at least colorable. Simply waving away any moral culpability that those opposed to vaccination have for the current state of the public health crisis, however, is facile at best and contemptibly dishonest at worst. I’m willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt on this one, but I would strongly encourage her to examine both the relevant scientific facts the fundamental moral questions of communal responsibility.

    The author makes another incorrect assumption in this article, although this one is somewhat more excusable given that it’s a common one that Americans frequently don’t examine. The author correctly notes than an individual’s vaccination status is a personal choice, but then just assumes that means the individual is entitled to do as they please without considering others or facing any consequences. Human beings have free will – by definition, everything is a personal choice. That doesn’t mean that all choices are equally moral, nor does it mean that all choices will (or even should) yield the individual’s desired result. If one chooses to defy a vaccine mandate despite the clear consensus of the scientific community (and the official stance of the Catholic Church, for those who care about that), that means they’re rejecting a term in the social contract – that has to carry some sort of cost.

    I’ll leave it there. I obviously disagree with the author’s viewpoint on the substance of this matter, and I suspect that will be enough for her and those in her corner to dismiss my criticism out of hand. But I would hope that even if one doesn’t agree with my perspective from the jump, they could at least acknowledge the very real problems with how this article’s arguments are formulated and think about the implications of those problems. I believe that that suspect arguments whose conclusions we agree with should prompt us to reconsider our position.

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