Ethical Issues Surrounding the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate
Vaccines form one of the vital inventions because they help eradicate and prevent public health crises. In the past, people have used vaccines to lower mortality rates for some of the most deadly diseases around the world. For instance, World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the measles vaccine prevents about three million deaths annually worldwide (Emhoff et al., 2016). This figure speaks to the benefits associated with prevention strategies associated with vaccination. Therefore, when Covid-19 was first reported and subsequently labeled a pandemic, preventative measures were taken to help curb the spread of the deadly virus.
Countries instituted mandatory lockdowns, and only essential workers were required to report to duty as nations grappled with the highly contagious disease. Those decisions were heavily influenced by utilitarian theory, which argues that an action’s moral rightness or wrongness depends on its consequences (Aragbonfoh Abumere, 2019). Consequently, it was morally right for the government to stop movements and place curfews to reduce transmission and deaths associated with Covid-19. Scientists, researchers, and health officers globally began identifying ways to help protect the masses by exploring various medications. With great relief, the world welcomed the news of the first emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech (Pfizer) Covid-19 jab by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA, 2021) and WHO in December 2020. However, there were mixed reactions from the people concerning Pfizer.
While many institutions recognized Covid-19 vaccines as crucial for the prevention and protection of the global public, some individuals had reservations against inoculation. Specifically, most people were against the mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations by the government and organizations. The policies for mandate immunization interfere with individual rights and liberties, but the government justifies them as crucial for the protection of the health and well-being of the public. For instance, I was forced to take the vaccines so as to keep my job. On that account, I strongly believe that mandating the Covid-19 vaccine goes against my freedom to choose. I am of the opinion that anyone has the right to decide whether they should receive the Covid-19 jab because of the surrounding issues concerning the effectiveness and the long-term effects of taking the vaccine. The speech explores ethical concerns surrounding the Covid-19 vaccines mandate, and moral reasoning people should follow when deciding whether or not to receive the jab.
Ethical Concerns Surrounding Covid-19 Vaccines
Governments and institutions have direct and indirect ways of compelling people to comply with vaccine mandates. Despite its name, mandatory inoculation is not a must or compulsory, therefore, individuals retain the moral right to accept the vaccine. As a result, some people were unwilling to accept the Covid-19 vaccines despite the proof that the jab helped lower the hospitalization rate. In a non-trivial manner, organizations create policies that limit a person’s choice by making it a condition. For example, all fifty states have laws that make vaccination to certain diseases a condition for attending public daycare or public school (Emhoff et al., 2016). Similarly, employers and certain stores throughout the country have made Covid-19 a condition to rejoining offices. These mandatory policies force people to take vaccines against their will because they do not want to lose their income.
In my case, my employer argued that all employees should be vaccinated when returning to resuming work. I believe such control of people’s lives is a violation of First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The two indicate that we all have the right to freedom of choice and equal protection under the law. However, mandatory inoculation directives mean that only a segment of vaccinated individuals is protected while denying others the right to choose. Emhoff et al. (2016) phrased that these mandates infringe on personal rights to make medical decisions while violating the moral integrity of the people opposed to vaccination. Nonetheless, the government and certain institutions have imposed these proof of immunization for Covid-19 policies for one to be retained at work or access public services set by states. Currently, a total of 23 states has mandates requiring state or private workers to comply with mas, Covid-19 testing, and vaccination (Kaiser Family Foundation [KFF], 2021). All private and public healthcare employees, care providers, teachers, and state officers on-site must be fully vaccinated in these states.
These mandatory policies also violate medicine’s ethical principles that protect patients’ rights. The principle of autonomy argues for an obligation to respect people capable of making decisions and taking actions based on their personal views and values (Tseng & Wang, 2021). Therefore, most of the people deciding not to take the Covid-19 vaccine should be respected because they have valid concerns that should be explored. The first issue concerns lack of clarity and miscommunication concerning the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines. As worded by Sauer et al. (2021), there were many uncertainties about the Covid-19 risks, which induced panic, anger, fear, and pressure on the general public. The delayed government response in the first months and lack of transparency about the virus made people skeptical of the pandemic’s onset. Additionally, the WHO and public officials in the USA advised the people not to wear masks despite the lack of evidence (Sauer et al., 2021). Consequently, there was confusion when the health officials later changed the statements indicating the importance of masks in preventing Covid-19.
The confusion and distrust were evident as people became hesitant in accepting the Covid-19 vaccine due to the loss of credibility of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and medical experts. According to Sauer et al. (2021), some communities have historical trauma associated with vaccinations, medical interventions, and public health measures. Therefore, most of these people did not hesitate to air their concerns and mistrust based on their perceptions and the general views that the jab was experimental. Many people resisted the drug because they were afraid and scared of being used as guinea pigs to test the vaccine. As a result, it appeared suspicious for the government and institutions to enforce the Covid-19 inoculation mandate while ignoring these concerns.
People’s fears were exacerbated by the effectiveness and side effects of the Covid-19 vaccines. While the CDC assured people that the vaccines were safe to use and only rare cases developed any side effects, the miscommunication on traditional and social media had left many skeptical (CDC, 2021; Sauer et al., 2021). Research from scientists, medical experts, and public health officials generally agreed that the jab was safe for adults to use, and many countries began the immunization process to protect their citizens. According to the CDC (2022), more than 535 million doses of the Covid-19 jabs were administered across the country between December 14, 2020, and January 24, 2022. Therefore, the government had collected enough data to help determine the efficacy and effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines.
The reports obtained by the CDC (2022) indicated cases of anaphylaxis caused by inoculation occurred in about five people per one million, and only 57 cases of thrombosis had been recorded out of over 18 million doses. Other extremely rare but possible side effects of Covid-19 vaccination included Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), myocarditis and pericarditis, death (CDC, 2022). The organization argued that of the 535 million doses, 11,657 (0.002%) death reports were recorded, but only nine cases were causally linked to the J&J Covid-19 vaccine (CDC, 2022). Despite the low recorded figures of side effects associated with the vaccines, people feared falling victims to these issues. As a result, they majorly abstained from taking the jab and actively voiced their concerns on social media and public forums protesting these mandates. Again, instead of the relevant public health bodies and government responding with clear information and guided facts, some officials dismissed those who complained and urged them to comply with the mandates (Sauer et al., 2021). Consequently, people have continued to defy these orders, while some, including me, choose to comply to maintain their jobs.
Supporting Covid-19 Vaccines Mandate
The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the global economy and public health. Millions of people lost jobs as companies closed down to curtailed movements and lockdowns, and others lost their loved ones. Therefore, scientists were swift in finding possible solutions to this virus and suggested measures people could take to reduce the infection rate. Additionally, the introduction of Covid-19 was received well by many people who wanted to resume normalcy. Most countries introduced mandatory vaccination as a necessity in achieving public health goals. One of the most significant ethical considerations for the mandated Covid-19 jab was the vaccine’s safety. The mandatory restrictions on being inoculated were supported by safety data that suggested possible risks linked to the vaccines. According to the CDC (2022), common side effects of vaccination were redness and pain at the injection site, headache, tiredness, chills, nausea, and chills that only lasted for a maximum of two days. Severe effects or long-term health issues associated with the Covid-19 vaccines were extremely unusual. Consequently, public health officials had evidence supporting that the benefits of Covid-19 outweighed the risks of being unvaccinated.
While supporting mandatory vaccination, the government urged all adults to take vaccines to reduce the infection rate. The principles of utilitarianism suggest that the right action is one with the greatest amount of good for the largest number of people (Bowen, 2020). Applying this view, receiving the Covid-19 jab was the right thing to do as it would dramatically minimize the spread of the virus. It was particularly effective in urging all healthcare workers to be vaccinated because it would decrease the risk of spreading the virus to patients, especially those with compromised immunity, family members, and the public (Bowen, 2020). Healthcare providers work in a high-risk environment because they come in contact with infected people, and they would likely cause reinfections. Additionally, applying the principle of justice shows that mandatory vaccination would help protect immunocompromised individuals or those with medical contradictions exposed by Covid-19 (Bowen, 2020). As a result, receiving the Covid-19 vaccine adheres to medical principles of safeguarding people, leading to lower risks of infection.
Vaccines work when most people accept them because they help achieve herd immunity. According to Friedrich (2021), attaining a 70% vaccination rate is the threshold for meeting herd immunity, making the rate of person-to-person infection unlikely. This approach effectively safeguards all people and minimizes the threat of virus mutation. Therefore, the government understands the only way to protect the nation is by urging as many people as possible to get the Covid-19 jab. Furthermore, Supreme Court supports the legality of vaccine mandates through a ruling that argued compulsory vaccination laws as necessary for public health or safety (Emhoff et al., 2016). This adjudication served as a guide as states enforced restrictions such as lockdowns, quarantines, and vaccinations as protective measures for the public’s safety. Accordingly, and in line with the utilitarian principles, the government can enforce vaccines mandate and apply restrictions in high-risk environments to protect the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
Defending Personal Position
There are many ethical concerns and rights surrounding the mandatory Covid-19 vaccines. In the vaccination issue, there are two conflicting groups; fully vaccinated and unvaccinated. The government needs to approach this issue from a rights perspective, in that all people’s freedom should be respected and equal. Using Covid-19 jab as a condition to accessing certain services or employment violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. These mandates are exacerbated by the fact that the vaccines are not 100% against upcoming mutations and the lack of clarity surrounding the number of doses an individual must take to be immune to Covid-19 (Thompson et al., 2022). For these reasons, the government should allow people to choose whether they want to be vaccinated or not after addressing the reservations they have against the vaccine.
I believe some people are genuinely concerned about the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines. Native Americans, Latinx, and Africa-American populations distrust public health interventions due to existing historical racial bias and vaccination traumas (Friedrich, 2021; Sauer et al., 2021). These concerns by the minorities were aggravated by miscommunication from public health officials and rising cases of anti-vaxxers. Friedrich (2021) observed social media users, traditional media, religious groups, human rights campaigns, and conspiracy theorists objected to Covid-19 vaccination. Such objection raised people’s suspicion of the jab, and the government should have applied persuasion than coercing citizens to accept immunization. Sauer et al. (2021) suggested that proper communication, transparency, and public health promotion as effective measures of enlightening the public about the dangers of the Covid-19 virus. Health education could help people understand the effectiveness of vaccines in reducing transmission, hospitalization, and mortality rates, appealing to people and allowing them to make the right decisions for the greater good.
The Covid-19 vaccines are effective in reducing the infection and rates of hospitalization. However, the government and organizational policy-makers concerned with the protection of public health and employees should encourage voluntary vaccination instead of mandated jabs. Health officials should put more effort into demonstrating the safety of Covid-19 vaccines and the benefits of immunization against the possible risks of being unvaccinated. Transparency and clarity should be emphasized during communication to counter the damage caused by people campaigning against inoculation. Persuasion is a better approach to convincing people than coercing them because it allows each individual to exercise the right to choose. Finally, the government can deal with ethical and rights concerns by putting restrictions to enable fully vaccinated individuals to enjoy various freedoms without restrictions. They should also urge the unvaccinated to adopt protective measures such as isolation, face masks, and regular cleaning to protect themselves and others.
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