Critical thinking is such an overrated and redundant skill. They’ve clearly phased it out at Notre Dame University, Australia, as this fisk demonstrates:
Our best hope for ending the COVID-19 pandemic is a safe and effective vaccine, but faced with polls suggesting a large number of people will refuse to be immunised, governments must consider making it mandatory.
Our best hope?
Epidemiologist Martin Kuldorff suggests herd immunity is the most likely scenario ($ subscription required), either by accepting the young will get it or by eventually finding a vaccine. He’s sceptical a vaccine will be found any time soon though.
It’s not just card-carrying anti-vaxxers that will refuse. Surveys in the United States and France indicate about one in four adults would refuse a vaccine, and one in six in Britain.
Let’s give Chesterton’s Fence another run out. It’s incumbent on the supporters of a yet to be developed vaccine to prove its usefulness and safety.
Maybe survey the “anti-vaxxers” again at that point?
Given the incredibly high costs of unnecessarily extending the COVID-19 crisis, it seems reasonable to consider whether governments should make vaccinations mandatory. In recent months, we have come to accept extraordinary government restrictions that would ordinarily be unconscionable in liberal democracies. If you think − as most of us do − that these constraints are an acceptable price to pay to help curb the pandemic’s damage, then a mandatory vaccination policy deserves serious consideration.
Most of us?
DeTocqueville’s tyranny of the majority, much?
This proposal might strike you as outrageous, but it’s not without precedent. In 1905, inhabitants of Cambridge, Massachusetts were required to be vaccinated against smallpox. Only last year, New York City required anyone over six months of age (in certain parts of the city) to be vaccinated against measles. Since March this year, Germany has required all parents to have their children vaccinated against measles. In all these cases, if an individual were to refuse they would be fined.
By 1905, the smallpox vaccine was over a hundred years old and it was clear what the benefits vs side effects were.
Not quite the same as a yet to be developed vaccine, is it?
Although lockdown conditions reduce your wellbeing, the personal benefits ultimately outweigh the personal costs. If you accept this, then you should also accept mandatory vaccinations, since your chances of being infected will lower dramatically if the vaccine has wide and quick uptake.
The personal benefits ultimately outweigh the personal costs.
That’s a bold statement of fact with absolutely no supporting evidence. It’s also probably about two to three years too early to be certain; have you counted the cost of undetected cancers, for example?
According to a more altruistic justification, a lockdown, and all its associated costs, is acceptable because we have a moral obligation to put others’ wellbeing ahead of our own − especially when the threat to others is as serious as death and the costs to oneself are much smaller. If you accept this, then you should also accept mandatory vaccinations.
Giving up one’s freedom to choose whether to be vaccinated is just another way of making a relatively small sacrifice from one’s stock of personal liberties out of altruistic concern for others.
Mandatory vaccinations aren’t exactly “giving up” freedom, more taking it. Nice flip of language, though.
All vaccinations carry some risk and these might be higher in the case of a quickly developed vaccine for a novel virus. But a mandatory vaccine policy can manage such risks sensibly, for instance by allowing exemptions for high-risk individuals. Once we do this, it’s not obvious that mandatory vaccinations run a greater risk of unintentional harm than lockdown, factoring in the long-lasting economic, social, domestic, and psychological consequences of lockdowns.
Who gets to decide? It doesn’t sound like those high-risk individuals get to choose.
Were such a policy to be implemented, we would need to think carefully about how to respond to citizens who outright refuse to comply. But this problem faces mandatory lockdown policies, too, and has proved surmountable.
As with lockdown, some uses of state force are acceptable − such as fines − and some are unacceptable − such as welding doors shut. As with lockdown, some exemptions are appropriate, perhaps for individuals who have serious moral objections to the ingredients or manufacturing conditions of a vaccine.
And there we have it. It’s a call to use the State’s monopoly on violence for the author’s preferred strategy.
Were entire communities to refuse a vaccine, as may occur in places such as Mullumbimby with a high concentration of anti-vaxxers, it may be appropriate to have more stringent social restrictions in place for a time in these communities.
It may sound draconian, but a mandatory vaccination policy enjoys solid prudential and moral justification. And it may be our only way of ending the COVID-19 crisis.
It may sound draconian.
Ya reckon? Forcing people to accept a vaccination yet to be developed rushed through in record time without the benefit of the full due diligence normally undertaken to ensure the cure isn’t worse than the disease; draconian? Yeah, just a teeny bit.
Tim Smartt is a lecturer in moral philosophy at the Institute for Ethics and Society, University of Notre Dame Australia.
I’m guessing logical fallacies aren’t on the curriculum he teaches.
I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I’m also not in a hurry to be injected with any substance that hasn’t had the benefit of the massive due diligence, testing and peer review processes every other vaccine is subject to before being approved for use.
Despite what a lecturer in ethics at a 3rd rate regional university might say, perhaps a little medical evidence might be the more appropriate guide on how to proceed.