The current conditions of the pandemic imply the need for elaborating effective measures for protecting the world population. They should be underpinned by moral considerations, which are vital for ensuring the acceptance of vaccination by all people. The necessity to make this initiative compulsory for everyone is supported by the perspective of social contract ethicists, claiming the effectiveness of inoculating citizens. In turn, the opposition is presented by ethical egoists, whose attitudes are directly related to the freedom of choice as the main priority. However, in this case, the ideas of the collective good should prevail since it is the ultimate target of policymakers regardless of their standpoints. Mandatory vaccination is critical for curbing the spread of infection and guaranteeing safe access to public facilities, and the resistance stemming from the violation of human rights should not be a reason for rejecting it.
The Perspective of Social Contract Ethics
The principal evidence correlating with the viewpoint of social contract ethicists is related to the moral duty of individuals to help the country reduce the number of deaths, meaning the focus on pursuing global interests. This requirement is explicitly supported by the scholars, who examine the ethical aspect of vaccination and attempt to find a solution to this controversial problem. For example, Giubilini (2021) writes that herd immunity is a desirable outcome of mandatory measures as it allows protecting whole communities from infectious diseases, and it is more important than individuals’ opinions. This stance implies that the only practical approach to minimizing the risks for the population is to ensure that a sufficient number of citizens are vaccinated. Otherwise, the threat remains entirely unaddressed, and the adverse results of a failure to achieve the required threshold correspond to the neglect of a public good.
This position is also underpinned by the evaluation of conditions for specific categories of citizens, such as medical workers. According to Maltezou et al. (2019), the introduction of mandatory vaccination for them is important for preventing the occupational acquisition of the disease. This need is crucial since ignoring the conditions of the working environment for these people can lead to the impossibility of providing high-quality healthcare services to the affected populations (Maltezou et al., 2019). The emerging challenges, deriving from the absence of staff in facilities, will significantly exacerbate ill-health and morbidity that are already high due to the ongoing pandemic. Hence, this factor should be viewed as one of the principal provisions, explaining why the suggested interventions are unavoidable. In addition, from the moral perspective, distinguishing between the requirements for hospital employees and others can lead to the former’s resentment, which should be prevented by all means.
Under the specified circumstances, mandatory vaccination seems feasible for all categories of citizens, and its introduction is the only possible way to maintain societal activity on the level of the pre-pandemic period. This solution is especially crucial for the new generations since their wellbeing is negatively influenced by this challenge compared to their older counterparts. As follows from the article written by Gravagna et al. (2020), educational penalties, including the denial of school enrollment until the children are inoculated, are the most common restrictions developed by policymakers. It means that young citizens, who are more psychologically vulnerable than their parents, are likely to be affected more than others. In this situation, engaging in different activities is impossible for them, and the continuation of restrictions will be detrimental to their mental health. Thus, mandatory vaccination is also required from the point of view of social inclusion critical for all citizens while being especially important for the youth.
Opposition: Ethical Egoists
The perspective of social contract ethicists presented above is opposed by the claims of ethical egoists, who are convinced that the suggested measures for curbing infectious diseases are morally wrong. They argue that the resistance of the majority of the world population is based on the concerns connected to human rights that seem to be violated when everyone is obliged to get vaccinated. Thus, for instance, Sprengholz et al. (2021) empirically proved that the restrictions of this nature inevitably lead to anger and the formation of negative perceptions among people. It means that the introduction of mandatory vaccines might decrease the willingness of individuals to resort to this solution voluntarily. Nevertheless, even though this circumstance should not be neglected, it is insufficient for rejecting compulsory methods because the considerations of the collective good are more suitable and effective in combatting the threat.
Another factor discussed by the supporters of freedom in making decisions regarding vaccination is the need for promoting the economic activity of the population for the benefit of individuals and governments. This provision can be ensured only if limitations imposed as a result of rejecting mandatory requirements are lifted. Kong and Prinz (2020) confirm that the opposite decisions lead to the growing unemployment rates that mean the impossibility for people to maintain their financial stability in such difficult times. This problem seems critical for overcoming the crisis in the long run; however, its flaws are connected to the accompanying failure to guarantee health care. The neglect of citizens’ conditions while emphasizing their need to work is more harmful than the development of uniform approaches to the task of preventing the spread of infections.
The final circumstance, which is frequently highlighted by ethical egoists, is the adoption of improper research methods, allowing to claim the presence of moral violations. This issue is reflected in the article written by Giubilini et al. (2021), in which the scholars speak about the resistance due to religious reasons connected to the above challenge. According to this piece, the unwillingness of individuals to comply with the regulations is caused by the use of cell lines in vaccines that are also linked to abortions (Giubilini et al., 2021). In other words, subjective attitudes are spread onto essential beliefs, thereby contributing to the lack of respect for their human rights. However, as it is emphasized by scholars, this idea is completely irresponsible and should not substitute the considerations of feasibility and the common good (Giubilini et al., 2021). Thus, the arguments of opponents, despite being well-justified, are inappropriate for the current situation when the survival of the populations is at stake.
To summarize, an optimal solution for preventing the spread of infectious diseases is the introduction of mandatory vaccination because it is more effective than other measures. The failure to use this method can lead to increased mortality rates, and even though human rights are significant for forming populations’ attitudes, adhering to these provisions can reduce their chances for wellbeing. From the perspective of social contract ethicists, this necessity is conditional upon the requirement for creating herd immunity, promoting equality, and maintaining societal activity. The opposing evidence is presented by anger resulting from non-acceptance of this policy, individuals’ needs for economic stability, and the allegedly unethical practices, but it is insufficient for combatting the threat, which is a priority. Therefore, it is important to adopt the most effective approaches possible for protecting citizens despite the fact that this decision cannot be uniformly supported.
Giubilini, A. (2021). Vaccination ethics. British Medical Bulletin, 137(1), 4-12. Web.
Giubilini, A., Minerva, F., Schuklenk, U., & Savulescu, J. (2021). The ‘ethical’ COVID-19 vaccine is the one that preserves lives: Religious and moral beliefs on the COVID-19 vaccine. Public Health Ethics, 14(3), 242-255. Web.
Gravagna, K., Becker, A., Valeris-Chacin, R., Mohammed, I., Tambe, S., Awan, F. A., Toomey, T. L., & Basta, N. E. (2020). Global assessment of national mandatory vaccination policies and consequences of non-compliance. Vaccine, 38(49), 7865-7873. Web.
Kong, E., & Prinz, D. (2020). Disentangling policy effects using proxy data: Which shutdown policies affected unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic? Journal of Public Economics, 189, 1–39. Web.
Maltezou, H. C., Theodoridou, K., Ledda, C., Rapisarda, V., & Theodoridou, M. (2019). Vaccination of healthcare workers: Is mandatory vaccination needed? Expert Review of Vaccines, 18(1), 5-13. Web.
Sprengholz, P., Betsch, C., & Böhm, R. (2021). Reactance revisited: Consequences of mandatory and scarce vaccination in the case of COVID-19. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 13, 986-995. Web.