This one’s tricky. First of all, this is not a pro or anti-vaxx post. Just simply
my take on the law surrounding mandatory vaccines. Of course I do have my opinions on vaccines, but you know what they say about opinions…
It’s unlikely that the federal government will mandate the COVID vaccine. The federal government’s power is limited by the Constitution, and this type of power is reserved for the states. What the federal government CAN do, however, is make your life more difficult if you choose NOT to vaccinate. For example, they could restrict you from flying or hold your federal tax refund unless you are vaccinated. This is not to say they WILL do these things, just to say they could try in order to not-so-gently encourage the vaccine.
The state governments are a different ballgame. They, theoretically and constitutionally, do have the power to mandate vaccines. This is all thanks to a 1905 case* in which the Supreme Court ruled that states have the power to impose reasonable regulations to protect public health, including mandating vaccines and fining those who do not comply. This case has been used ever since to justify mandatory vaccines in many states.
All that said, mandating vaccines, and actually enforcing the mandate, would be challenging.
For school-age children, it’s easy to make it a prerequisite of attending school, but parents do have the right to opt out claiming religious, medical, or philosophical exemptions.
Employers also have the right to mandate vaccines as they have a duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace. Similarly, though, employees can opt out in some situations. Employers also have to be careful because requiring vaccines of their employees opens them up to liability if an employee
were to have an adverse reaction to the vaccine.
So beyond being a school-attending kid and an employee at the mercy
of a safety-conscious boss, enforcing vaccine mandates for the rest of
us would be a pickle for state governments. Short of requiring all citizens
to wear a badge identifying them as vaccinated, the government would
have a hard time tracking those vaccinated and punishing offenders.
Now if you’re wondering if you should get the COVID vaccine, I can’t say.
After all, I’m a doctor of the law (it’s true!), not medicine.
Personally, I’ll be chatting with the doctors I trust to get their expert opinion, which I recommend others do as well.
On a different note, there ARE some doctors of the law who feel they ARE qualified to make medical recommendations. In November, the New York State Bar Association passed a resolution urging the state to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all New Yorkers, regardless of their medical, religious, or philosophical objections.
This is absurd!
What is a group of lawyers that governs lawyers doing making medical recommendations for the community? We think they should stay in their own lane!
*Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905)