The vaccine debate has never been more important to society. A new virus and rising public sentiments have contributed to the controversy over the Government's power to authorize vaccine mandates in the general population. The debate over the legality of vaccine requirements to attend schools goes back many years before the COVID pandemic changed the world. This issue is often rooted in clashes of different basic human rights, and which should take precedent, freedom, or safety. Furthermore, concerns about the safety of a new vaccine developed in months, faster than ever before, are another possible disincentive towards a mandatory vaccine mandate. While proponents tout both the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, making the case that in extreme circumstances, we must sacrifice some freedoms for the greater good.
Supporters of vaccine mandates argue that vaccines save lives and that vaccines are generally safe. Many believe that vaccines' potential side effects are so rare or harmless that they should not jeopardize their use for the general population. Many also cite that major medical organizations endorse the use of vaccines, corroborating their safety. Vaccines have already eradicated once deadly diseases such as smallpox and polio. They can prevent death and sickness, and therefore could take away the economic burden on society.
In the span that vaccines have been made available during COVID, those in favor of vaccines have argued that trusting in Government and the researchers developing the vaccines will lead to faster economic recovery and quality of life. In addition, increasing vaccination rates can lead to herd immunity, which grants immunity to the majority of a population, hampering public spread and decreasing severe cases. As many have been fearful of COVID vaccine side effects and are uncertain of its efficacy, those for vaccines often cite the study from the NEJM. A large study of over 40,000 people found 95% percent vaccine efficacy after two doses of the BioNTech Pfizer vaccine, with very few severe reactions to the vaccine.
Many anti-vaccine mandate sentiments are driven by the argument that vaccines can potentially cause severe and fatal adverse reactions and effects while also having little to no efficacy. However, the majority of arguments hinge on the limitations of the Government's power. In addition, many believe that mandatory vaccines infringe on religious freedom and believe that vaccination is a personal medical choice that Government should have no say in.
Many major private universities and hospitals are now imposing mandatory COVID vaccinations for faculty, staff, and students, which they must follow, lest they face termination. While in most cases, fewer than 1% of employees failed to comply, some have expressed their view of the mandate as imposing against their religious freedoms or claim that alternative methods could have been implemented. One of these solutions is natural immunity, which can be obtained through infection and then recovery, although the individual runs the risk of severe potentially deadly disease and complications.
On the more extreme side of the spectrum, opponents of COVID vaccines have called vaccination mandates a government experiment or merely another ploy by the Government to obtain absolute control of its constituents.
- What is the role of the Government in public health?
- Should the Federal Government be able to take away our liberties in times of extreme need?
- If so, what would constitute an extreme need?
- If not, what liberties should never be infringed?
- Would this be different for state or local governments?
- Is public safety more important than freedom?
“Pros & Cons - ProCon.org.” Vaccines, 4 Oct. 2021, https://vaccines.procon.org/#feb_22_2011.
Richard Stradling," 'Incredibly proud' Duke Health says it fired very few workers over COVID vaccine mandate." The News and Observer, Sep. 2021, https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article254610982.html
Fernando P. Polack, "Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine." NEJM, Dec. 2020, https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa2034577