There have been many debates about the pros and cons of mandating groups of workers to require them to become vaccinated. I am 100% on side with the government in supporting mandating. However, there continues to be resistance from some people often using personal liberty arguments against it. I guess these people feel free to drive without seat belts, or on the right-hand side of the road, or ride bikes without helmets. Because, if they are to be consistent, they would be resisting these mandates as well.
In an excellent article on mandating Dr Elizabeth Fenton, a lecturer in the Bioethics Centre at the University of Otago, argues that vaccine mandates are ethical. Her argument is that restricting people’s liberty is justified when the costs of what is being asked are small, and the harms being prevented are significant. She wrote in Newsroom:
Vaccine mandates are ethically justified to reduce the risks of harm from infectious disease and ensure everyone who is able contributes their share to the achievement of a public good from which we all benefit.
The fact that a policy is coercive does not alone make it ethically problematic. A coercive policy will be easier to justify when the cost to the individual of doing what is required is small, the harms prevented are significant, and the policy promotes important public good that can only be secured by a collective effort. Covid-19 vaccine mandates meet these conditions.
Her conclusions on those who refuse to accept the mandate are:
Critics argue that even if vaccine mandates do not violate bodily integrity, they violate a fundamental liberty right to make one’s own choices about whether or not to vaccinate, because they require a person to make a significant sacrifice (such as their job) in order to preserve that liberty.
However, this argument overlooks a key feature of mandates. They do not force an individual to make that sacrifice; rather they force the individual to decide how much they value this expression of their liberty relative to other goods, such as employment.
Those subject to the mandate remain free to choose which they value more – their freedom to reject a small burden that contributes significantly to the public good, or the good they are being asked to give up.
Objectors might respond that a vaccine mandate preserves this choice only in the sense that the thief who puts a gun to your head saying, “your money or your life,” offers you the freedom to choose which you value more. The freedom the thief gives you to choose does not make the threat morally justifiable.
In the current context, however, where the burden imposed by the vaccination mandate is significantly smaller than either “your money” or “your life”, the preservation of choice, coupled with the public health imperative to reduce the spread of disease, is sufficient to justify the mandate.
Here is a link to the article:
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