The Covid conundrum: should we be forced to get vaccinated?

Ideas

The Covid conundrum: should we be forced to get vaccinated?

There is a moral and legal case for mandating inoculation, but social psychology suggests that may not always be wise

Andreas Kluth

The dilemma is almost as old as vaccines: Can the state coerce citizens to get jabbed in the interests of public health? What about other institutions, such as schools, universities or employers? And if they can mandate shots, should they?

Even with the more familiar vaccines against smallpox, measles, whooping cough and the like, these questions have never been answered definitively in most countries. That haunts us now that we’re fighting a coronavirus pandemic and need to make urgent decisions.

Most governments, for now, are treading lightly, because they fear alienating the very people who need to roll up their sleeves and cooperate. Italy, for example, has mandated Covid vaccines only for health workers, and the UK is considering doing the same. But some politicians, exasperated about the many vaccine slouches, are contemplating more drastic measures. Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, has rather hyperbolically threatened that he’ll throw in jail anybody who refuses to get jabbed...

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