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Mandatory Vaccinations

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I am vaccinated, I was back teaching in person in the Spring, and most of my regular in person activities are back to normal(ish). So, it is easy for me to forget that a pandemic is still raging. My usual reminders are the news reports on the preventable cases and deaths among the unvaccinated. Because of the ongoing threat of the pandemic, some organizations have mandated vaccination. Others are considering the matter, no doubt consulting their lawyers. While the legality of mandatory vaccinations is a matter for lawyers and judges, there is also the ethics of vaccine mandates. As always, much depends on the context. In the case of schools, there is already the well-established precedent for requiring students to be vaccinated. The moral justification is usually a utilitarian one: while there is some cost and possible harms arising from mandatory school vaccinations, this is outweighed by the harms that these vaccinations prevent. Students are in relatively close contact in closed spaces for long periods of time, putting them at risk of various transmissible diseases. As such, allowing students (or, rather, their parents) to opt out of vaccines would put themselves and others at greater risk. Exemptions can, and should, be granted in cases where a person would be medically harmed by vaccination; but these are extremely rare cases. On the face of it, adding the COVID-19 vaccination to the list would seem undebatable: it is a dangerous virus for which safe and effective vaccines exist. In terms of rational moral objections, the main one is that the long-term effects of the vaccines on children and teens are not known. As such, one could claim that possible harmful effects of the vaccine might outweigh the harms of being unvaccinated. While this is always a legitimate concern, it is not unique to the COVID-19 vaccines: all past vaccines have raised the same concern. So far, the benefits have consistently outweighed the harms of vaccination—so unless there is evidence. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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