The debate we are currently having about mask-wearing is but a mere precursor to the much more consequential subject of vaccination.
There is already a lot of talk about making vaccination mandatory as soon as a vaccine for COVID-19 is available. As an opinion piece in USA TODAY earlier this month put it:
“To win the war against the novel coronavirus that has killed nearly 163,000 people in this country, the only answer is compulsory vaccination — for all of us… Simply put, getting vaccinated is going to be our patriotic duty.“
I frankly find this sort of argument terrifying. We’ve already seen the authoritarian inclinations that some of the governors and mayors in our country have demonstrated since last March. If they think the American people will let them get away with it, many of them will happily walk all over the 14th Amendment’s requirement for due process. Furthermore, with respect to compulsory vaccinations, the current Supreme Court will likely allow it. The Court will, no doubt, cite Jacobson v Massachusetts and, once again, take the position that legislation making vaccination mandatory is necessary for the sake of public safety.
It’s true, of course, that all 50 states have compulsory vaccination laws of one sort or another with regard to public schools, health care facilities, and nursing homes. But almost all of the states also have exemptions for religious or philosophical objections. Unfortunately, these exemptions aren’t particularly popular with those advocating for mandatory vaccination at present. The writers of the USA TODAY piece say no exemptions should be granted except for “medical contraindications.” They also suggest that an immunization registry is needed, and each person would need an immunization certification card. If all this seems Orwellian, that would be because it is.
Just to be clear, I am NOT anti-vaccine. Quite to the contrary! I can remember when I was a young boy that people were still expressing relief that there was a vaccine for Polio. Everyone I knew was vaccinated, and our parents were delighted we could have it done. Just a few years earlier, Polio was a much feared disease that killed thousands and paralyzed many thousands more, mostly children from ages five to nine. That fear had largely subsided by the early 1960s, replaced by gratitude for the vaccine. Vaccines were a gift from God.
But as wonderful as vaccines are, it is a fearful thing for governments to have the level of intrusive power over the individual required to legislate compulsory vaccination, especially with no exemptions allowed for objections on religious or philosophical grounds. If our state and/or federal governments as they exist today have that level of power, I fear our republic may be done for.
This is Brian Myers with your Caffeinated Thought of the Week.