Thankfully, vaccine mandates appear to be on their way out in many parts of the world (knock on wood). Despite this, I was philosophizing the other day (as I am wont to do) about why exactly vaccine mandates are morally wrong. These are four ways that I came up with that explain how vaccine mandates harm people:
- Vaccine mandates violate people’s privacy rights. Many people think that if someone is vaccinated, then that person is not negatively impacted by vaccine mandates. After all, being required to get a medical procedure isn’t a problem for those people who happen to have already gotten the required medical procedure, right? Wrong. Being required to provide proof of vaccination is harmful in itself, even if someone has already gotten the vaccine and has a vaccine card or other documentation easily available. This is because the act of having to prove to another person that one has undergone a particular medical procedure is inherently demeaning and degrading. This is not the type of interaction that a human being should ever have with another human being. Additionally, it is an invasion of privacy to require someone to share the fact that they got a vaccine, the date they got the vaccine(s), and the type of vaccine(s) that they got. One might think that this type of medical information isn’t that personal – and I would agree that it isn’t on the same level as info about getting a colonoscopy or having an STD to give just a couple of examples – but it is still medical information, and no person should have to provide it if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.
- Vaccine mandates punish people who aren’t vaccinated. This reason is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require much explanation. Requiring a vaccine for employment, travel, events, activities, or entrance into certain places means that people who haven’t gotten the vaccine aren’t allowed to do those things. Depriving people of the ability to hold certain jobs, travel to certain places, or participate in certain events and activities is inherently harmful.
- Vaccine mandates coerce people into getting vaccinated when they don’t want to. In my opinion, this is the worst way in which vaccine mandates harm people. For many non-vaccinated people, the punishments mentioned above are impossible or impractical to accept. Perhaps someone cannot absorb the loss of their job, because they need the income to survive. Perhaps someone’s passion is going to art museums, or hockey games, or fine restaurants, to give just a few examples, and they feel that their life wouldn’t be worth living without these activities. Or perhaps someone is part of a friend group that regularly partakes in activities that are subject to vaccine mandates, and the person doesn’t feel comfortable revealing to their friends that they aren’t vaccinated. In these types of situations, someone who does not want to get the vaccine may feel forced into getting it anyways. Unfortunately, this has likely happened to many people over the past months. Every instance in which this happens is a tragedy.
- Vaccine mandates bias the decision-making process of those who are undecided. This may be the most subtle way in which vaccine mandates negatively impact people. For someone who is genuinely undecided about whether or not to get the vaccine, the existence of vaccine mandates inherently biases the decision-making process. Every time a person makes a medical decision, that decision should be made 100% freely. People should be able to decide about the Covid vaccine based solely on their weighing of the risks and benefits of the vaccine to them individually. When a person knows that some jobs, places, events, and/or activities will be off-limits to them if they decline the vaccine, this knowledge inherently tips the decision-making process towards getting the vaccine. Therefore, by implementing vaccine mandates, governmental and private institutions are interfering with people’s medical decisions. They are introducing external factors – factors other than the actual risks and benefits of the vaccine itself – into the decision-making process. This is morally wrong, because it deprives people of the ability to make a truly free decision. (Infuriatingly, many institutions that implement vaccine mandates likely view the “tipping” of the decision-making process as an argument in favor of mandates).
These four reasons demonstrate how vaccine mandates harm everyone: vaccinated people, non-vaccinated people (both those who remain non-vaccinated and those who end up eventually getting vaccinated), and undecided people.