We might not, as New York University’s School of Medicine’s Arthur Caplan told National Geographic, “get to the point where the vaccine police break down your door to vaccinate you.” But a mandatory vaccine might still be in your future. The New York Times recently announced that the Biden administration is preparing to unleash a “Let’s Get Vaccinated” ad campaign to wipe out vaccine hesitancy. If TV can’t convince us, however, states and businesses have the legal right to require COVID-19 vaccines in certain situations.
Take schools. As per The Conversation, all 50 states require that kids entering their schools (K-12) prove they’ve had a host of vaccinations. Texas Department of State Health Services, for example, requires school-aged kids to be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, and chickenpox, among other things. Places of employment, too, are perfectly within their rights to fire employees if they don’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, as per federal government guidelines issued in December 2020 (via The New York Times). Some, like Houston Methodist Hospital, are already starting to do so (via Beckers Hospital Review). Managers at the hospital who have not gotten vaccinated by mid-April, 2021, might ultimately be suspended or sacked.
Finally, there is legal precedent for states to require everyone to get vaccinated, barring medical exemptions. That’s what happened in 2019 when New York obliged residents of certain zip codes to get vaccinated against measles to combat an outbreak (via The Conversation).
What happens if you refuse a mandatory vaccination?
If your school’s requiring you to be vaccinated against COVID-19, you can’t go if you don’t follow through. If it’s a business, you may lose your job or, if you’re a customer, be barred from entry. But if it’s a state that’s mandating vaccines, the consequences for not getting vaccinated are likely to be monetary. In 1901, Cambridge charged residents $5.00 if they chose not to get vaccinated against smallpox, according to National Geographic. Laugh if you want, but that’s roughly $105 today. New York, in 2019, upped the ante. If residents of stipulated zip codes declined a measles vaccination, the state charged them $1,000 (via The New England Journal of Medicine).
How likely is it that you’ll face some version of an obligatory COVID-19 vaccine? Dr. Fauci has publicly expressed doubt that we “will ever see mandating of a vaccine particularly for the general public” (via Forbes). But the public health expert is equally sure that some institutions will demand it. “I would not be surprised, as we get into the full scope of [COVID-19] vaccination, that some companies, some hospitals, some organizations might require [COVID-19] vaccination,” Fauci predicted to Newsweek.
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