Title: Mandatory Vaccination: a Defence
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This paper argues that Governments should take up a mandatory role in the provision of routine childhood vaccination against infectious diseases.
The introduction of vaccinations against life-threatening diseases during the last century has been one of the most important contributions to public health. However, in recent years, the Western world has witnessed a growing number of epidemics of vaccine-preventable diseases, as a result of an increasing number of parents refusing to vaccinate their children. In this paper I do two things. In the first part of the paper I argue that, given what is at stake, it is justifiable for liberal-democratic governments to enforce mandatory vaccination schemes for young children. I formulate and defend two arguments in favor of mandatory vaccination schemes. Government should not permit parents to put their children at avoidable risk of death and suffering, and has an overriding duty to protect children from these outcomes when doing so is easy and safe. Second, government should guard the common good of herd immunity in society. With the aim to protect persons what cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons
However, since such mandatory vaccination schemes might be politically unfeasible in countries like the US and the Netherlands, the second part of the paper explores whether it can be accompanied with a scheme of exemptions for people with genuine objections. If government wants to maintain herd immunity and a system of exemptions, the system must be able to distinguish legitimate from bogus objections, in order to exclude so-called “exemptions of convenience.” Here I analyze whether it is possible to make such a distinction in a neutral way, without privileging either religion or other comprehensive doctrines.
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