Over the last few months, there has been much talk about mandatory and forced vaccinations. It seems apparent that there is a lot of confusion over what constitutes mandatory and what is forced. As more countries make vaccines mandatory for participating in events, certain jobs, schools, and travel, it’s important to understand the difference between the two and where exactly your human rights come into it.
Definition of forced
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of forced is something that is compelled by force or necessity. In the context of forced vaccinations, we could say that if it’s forced, the vaccine is administered despite the individual’s wishes. Typically, this would mean using physical force to restrain the individual while they are vaccinated. To force someone means they have no choice because someone will vaccinate them regardless of what they say or do.
A pure example of forced vaccination would be me refusing to take a vaccine, a doctor coming to my house, entering without my permission, restraining me, and putting the vaccine in my arm while I shout “no.”
Definition of mandatory
According to the same dictionary, when something is mandatory, it is something that must be done, or that is demanded by law. Examples include athletes who must undergo a mandatory drug test before competing in an event, or the mandatory requirement to wear a seatbelt when driving. Mandatory leaves room for choice. The athlete can choose not to undergo a drug test, but they will be prevented from participating in the event. A driver can choose not to wear a seatbelt, but they risk a fine, points on their license, or dying in a crash.
An example of a mandatory vaccination would be a child requiring vaccinations to attend a state school, or requiring a yellow fever vaccination before visiting a certain country.
Are they not synonyms?
Some dictionaries list forced being a synonym of mandatory and vice versa. The definition of a synonym is a word that means exactly or nearly the same as another. Therefore, the words do not have to be identical in meaning; rather, they have to have similar elements or convey a similar theme. Forced and mandatory have meanings that share elements of requirement, obligation, and potentially doing something that you don’t 100% want to do, but they are not the same in meaning.
Mandatory vaccines take my choice away!
No, they don’t. If vaccines were forced, you would have no choice. The government would apprehend you and forcibly put a needle in your arm. But with mandatory vaccines, you are welcome to make the decision that suits you.
For example, if your workplace makes vaccines mandatory, you have a choice. You can either take the vaccine and continue working there, or you can not take the vaccine and get a job elsewhere. You may not like the choice or the outcome of not getting a vaccine, but that doesn’t negate the fact there is still a choice. Another example is traveling. If a country requires a vaccine to enter, you have the choice to get vaccinated and go there, or not get vaccinated and find another place to visit instead. Being upset that the consequence of your choice isn’t in line with what you want or expect has no bearing on the fact that the choice remains.
We make choices every day, and every choice we make has consequences. Sometimes we take decisions against what we feel because we understand that the outcome will be more positive one way than the other.
Let’s look at some examples. The decision to take a family member off life support can be a difficult one. You know the consequence of doing so will cause pain to you and result in a loss, but ultimately it could be the better option.
You might not believe in speed limits, or you think they are stupid, but you are required to abide by them to protect people crossing the road, backing out of a driveway, or driving on the same road. If you don’t, you could kill someone or end up in jail. Another example could be vaccinating your child against certain diseases to enroll them in a state educational institution. If you don’t, you will need to homeschool, which is legal (although not practiced) in Albania.
In the case of mandatory vaccines, you are more than welcome to exercise your choice not to have one, and you have that choice, but you cannot complain about the consequences. Existing in society requires balancing the rules and requirements present around us with our own desires. Most of us manage this daily; mandatory vaccines shouldn’t be an exception.
Before making the decision, it’s wise to create a list of pros and cons for each decision, so you are aware of the potential and actual consequences before you make your choice. You can weigh them up against each other, for example, whether you can find another job, whether you want to travel, and whether you intend to send your children to a certain school, and make an informed decision.
Mandatory vaccines are not new.
This is not a new concept. In 1853, the British government introduced a law requiring vaccination against smallpox. Failure to comply resulted in a fine. In 1905, the US Supreme Court ruled that states have the right to require children to be vaccinated to attend public school. To date, all 50 states require vaccination before attending public educational institutions. Vaccines are mandatory for public education in Argentina, Belgium, Australia, France, Croatia, Germany, and more. In some countries, vaccination is even required to access welfare.
Typically, the vaccines required in these cases include TB, Hepatitis A&B, Meningo, Measles and Rubella, Pneumo, Chickenpox, and Rotavirus. Adding COVID-19 to this list is no big deal.
In terms of work, for decades, jobs in healthcare, farming, childcare, offshore oil drilling, food handling, construction, and teaching have all required certain vaccinations. Let’s not forget that to travel to many countries; it’s been mandatory to take certain vaccinations. You cannot travel to many African countries without a Yellow Fever vaccination. Some will also require that you take a malaria jab before traveling.
If you’ve ever traveled with a pet, you will know that vaccines such as rabies are required before you can enter certain countries with them.
Vaccine status is not a protected status in terms of national or international human rights law. Therefore, refusing service to someone who doesn’t have or want a vaccine is not a violation of human rights. All governments, institutions, and private businesses have the right to enforce rules to protect themselves, their staff, and other people.
A government doesn’t have to pass a law or enshrine mandatory vaccination in the constitution. It can simply issue a rule. This can be challenged, and a precedent can be set, but in a global pandemic, the worldwide precedent is that mandatory vaccinations are normal and have been in place for over 150 years. An institution can also make any rules it deems fit before offering a service, as long as those rules are not discriminatory. Again, vaccination status is not a protected category, therefore does not constitute discrimination.
With a private business, the same rules apply. A business doesn’t have to allow everyone inside. In fact, many businesses enforce dress codes, don’t allow smoking inside, or require that weapons are not brought in.
Furthermore, introducing mandatory vaccinations which prevent you from accessing things you used to previously is not a violation of your rights. Sure, education is a human right, but you have always needed to meet a certain requirement. These include living in the catchment area, applying, being a citizen or resident, paying a fee, doing certain medical tests, and being vaccinated. The same applies to jobs-you had to apply, hand in a CV, meet the requirements regarding your experience and qualifications. You are also bound to respect the rules of the company, which are subject to change. In terms of access to healthcare, if you experience an emergency, doctors are bound to treat you, and they will, but they are able to limit access based on vaccination status. In this case, you have the choice to pay privately and hope you find a doctor or hospital that is willing to go against the overwhelming evidence that vaccination is safe.
The government of a country is within its rights to mandate vaccination. The precedent is there on a global basis and has been present for over 150 years. The overwhelming body of data shows that vaccines are safe and effective. International health organizations have repeatedly spoken about the safety of vaccines. If you don’t want to get a vaccine, and you wish to go against the advice of all of the above, feel free, but don’t expect there to be no consequences.