Are Vaccines Obligatory?

As of today, there are a total of 3 COVID-19 vaccines in the US that have been shown to be at least 90% effective at preventing serious illness from COVID-19 infection. Some public health experts estimate that vaccines may become available to those in the priority group before the end of the year. [1] While the data does not yet show whether the COVID-19 vaccines will successfully prevent a vaccinated person from transmitting an infection to others, public health experts still maintain that vaccination is crucial to managing the pandemic. [2] Experts estimate that at least 60-70% of the population needs to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in order to achieve herd immunity. [3] And yet, a recent Gallup poll shows that only 58% of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine. [4] Of the 42% of Americans who said they would not get the vaccine, 37% expressed concerns about the speed with which the vaccine has been developed and 25% say that they want to be sure that the vaccine is safe before they receive the vaccine. Given the concerns that many Americans have about the safety and reliability of a COVID-19 vaccine on the one hand and the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic on the other, do Americans have an obligation to get vaccinated?

Logan K. is currently in his senior year at ASU. In May he will graduate with a B.S. in Political Science and a minor in Philosophy. Moving forward, he hopes to attend law school in Fall of 2021. Logans enjoys reading, writing, drinking tea, and hiking –all of which can be done safely while staying socially distanced.

Katie is a third year PhD student in philosophy at ASU. Katie is originally from Birmingham, AL and most recently lived in Atlanta, GA, where she earned her MA in philosophy from Georgia State University. Her research interests lie broadly within political philosophy and feminist ethics. More specifically, Katie is interested in the moral responsibilities that we have as people and as citizens to respond to injustice and oppression. Katie is currently working on her dissertation, which focuses on the moral and political permissibility of incivility as a form of resistance to oppression.

[1] Anthony Fauci, interview by Rachel Martin, Morning Edition, NPR, November 17, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/11/17/935655818/vaccinations-against-covid-19-could-begin-next-month-fauci-says

[2] Ludwig Burger and Kate Kelland, “Analysis: Can first COVID-19 vaccines bring herd immunity? Experts have doubts,” Reuters, November 18, 2020,  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-immunity-analysis/analysis-can-first-covid-19-vaccines-bring-herd-immunity-experts-have-doubts-idUSKBN27Y124

[3] Cynthia DeMarco, “COVID-19 herd immunity: 7 questions, answered,” MDAnderson, July 17, 2020, https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/what-is-covid-19-coronavirus-herd-immunity-when-will-we-achieve-herd-immunity.h00-159383523.html

[4] RJ Reinhart, “More Americans Now Willing to Get COVID-19 Vaccine,” Gallup, November 17, 2020, https://news.gallup.com/poll/325208/americans-willing-covid-vaccine.aspx

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