As the COVID-19 vaccine is being introduced, states have the authority to jail or fine people who refuse to get the vaccine.
What We Know:
- The legal precedent dates back to 1905 in the U.S Supreme Court Case Jacobson v. Massachusetts. The court ruled that Massachusetts had the authority to fine people when refusing the vaccination for smallpox.
- Many people are concerned about the vaccine being new, what it could contain, and its side effects. Many commented on the matter saying, “Take me to jail” and “I will not become the government’s guinea pig”.
- Drugmakers are in phase four of developing the vaccine against COVID-19. As work continues. legal questions are emerging on media such as: Could the government require people to get it? And, could people who refuse to roll up their sleeves get banned from stores or lose their jobs?
- Law professor and director of the Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics at the University of San Diego, Dov Fox stated, “States can compel vaccinations in more or less intrusive ways. They can limit access to schools or services or jobs if people don’t get vaccinated. They could force them to pay a fine or even lock them up in jail.”
- In the Supreme Court, a federal vaccine requirement would be found unconstitutional. The debate happening on social media is the “flu situation” meaning, some people get the flu shot to prevent getting the flu and others just take vitamins, but it has never been required for everyday living purposes.
- The Black community is especially concerned that their rights will be breached after President Trump announced he would mobilize the military to “distribute” the vaccines. “Courts have found that when medical necessity requires it, the public health outweighs the individual rights and liberties at stake,” Fox said.
Smallpox had an infectious death rate of 30%, as the coronavirus kills less than 1% of the population. Although states have the legal authority to mandate vaccinations, there is no certainty whether Congress could pass a federal requirement.