Should you be forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

I got the following comment after my recent post suggesting the COVID-19 vaccines were being undersold.

“But I don’t want it! I don’t feel the need for it. I’m a healthy female- I do not want to take it and the Government or airlines should not dictate I take it. They don’t check if someone has measles vac or mumps vac when boarding a plane or cruise ship from US or a foreign country. Never have…so why now. Those two diseases can kill someone too.”

It is hard to argue with the fact that this is a free country, and people are allowed to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t adversely affect others. People can smoke, drink to excess, or do any number of other activities that might harm themselves as long as they are not putting others at risk through passive smoking or drunk driving.

People who don’t get immunized can serve as a source of infection for others and mutant virus.

However, the key point here is putting others at risk. By not getting the COVID-19 vaccine, you open up the potential of infecting others with whom you casually come in contact. This issue is very complex with COVID-19 since in many cases young people did not even realize they were infected when they were spreading the disease. The most remorseful comments I hear from this pandemic are not because people get sick themselves from COVID-19, but because they have infected a family member, a close friend, or other employee who subsequently has been seriously disabled or has died. You do not want to be responsible for killing grandma. 

Even more disconcerting is the fact that this RNA virus mutates significantly. The more, non-immunized individuals who get infected, the greater the potential for mutation. A large reservoir of individuals who refuse immunization would be the perfect population to generate mutant viruses that eventually escape the vaccine and could cause a repeat of the current pandemic. 

Germany and most of Europe require measles vaccine.

Is there precedent for requiring vaccination? There is extensive evidence for this action. Many states require vaccination for diseases like measles or mumps before a child is allowed to attend school. Many countries also require vaccination for citizens and for entry, and some countries mandate vaccination for all children. In many ways the United States is an outlier, allowing religious exemptions and other ways to avoid vaccination.

After the experience we have had with this pandemic, there seems to be a movement towards encouragement and even potential requirement for COVID-19 vaccination. An Ohio congressman suggested that stimulus checks “only be given to people who’ve gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.” In this way, the stimulus not only would provide economic relief, but it would help drive herd immunity. Other forms of encouragement have involved the potential of preferential access to everything from airline flights to restaurants and concerts. 

But there are also many suggestions to force vaccination. Several companies have suggested they will insist on their employees being vaccinated, the latest today being United Airlines. Ticketmaster will require vaccines for attendance at concerts. 

My guess is that there will be strong requirements for vaccination once the COVID-19 vaccines are widely available. Given what we have been through, I cannot argue against it; it is immunology not social choice.

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

4 thoughts on “Should you be forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

  1. Thank you for this very concise yet clear response to the individual that does not want to be vaccinated. As you advise, studies are showing this RNA virus mutates and it therefore could mutate into a more lethal form that is resistant to the current vaccines. The political climate and the internet has unfortunately generated huge numbers of individuals that simply do not want to follow or do not believe what scientific study is telling us.

    Liked by 1 person

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