Freedom of Choice
Akshaya Krishnan & Sahana Raja
Freedom of Choice: An Argument Against Mandating The Vaccines
What is the purpose of mandating a vaccine? We must realize that this doesn’t necessarily ensure increased uptake of the vaccine. The EU’s study on pandemics by Baltic and Scandinavian countries stated that “countries where a vaccination is mandatory do not usually reach better coverage than a neighbour or similar countries where there is no legal obligation”.
Even so, although infectious, COVID has a relatively low fatality rate as compared to other diseases with mandatory vaccines. Consequently, the vaccine mandate, especially considering the expedited trial process and the lack of clarity for long term side effects, may be seen as cavalier and unjust. Before constructing a mandate, it is essential to take a step back and understand the actual ramifications of vaccine consumption. Does it ensure protection? In the era of Martin Shkreli, mass capitalism and governmental overreach, some individuals rightfully struggle to place their full faith in private pharmaceutical companies and the agencies that govern them.
With the trials only starting as late as April, it can be challenging to gauge the extent of long-term damage possible due to the vaccine. For individuals that are not adversely affected by the virus (who are not in the adversely affected age bracket), forcing them to mandate a vaccine without complete transparency will only serve as encouragement for anti-government sentiments, alongside raising major moral and biological concerns.
Naturally, this does not endorse an anti-scientific sentiment. Vaccines are, of course, crucial to the fight against the pandemic. However, it must be used effectively, with a target group-oriented approach. Previous vaccination drives like Polio have been dealt with by protecting high-risk groups and educating the masses on disease spread, rather than forcing the vaccine. The health agencies must not allow the fervours of today invalidate the history of immunology. Mandating vaccines without adequate planning and transparent information will only spread fear.
For Their Own Good: Why the Government Should Mandate The Vaccine
The goal of every government in the coming months is a rapid vaccination strategy. Per the WHO's guidelines, individual countries are free to design their vaccination programs. How do governments respond?
The goal of a vaccine is herd immunity- the more that get vaccinated, the less chance that others get infected. Achieving it naturally, as Sweden discovered, is quite destructive, necessitating the advent of a vaccine.
The resistance to vaccinations is mainly due to a trust deficit, a problem especially troublesome in the Indian healthcare sector. Despite the rapid development of the private sector, the public sector facilities remain deficient and lack adequate coverage. Without infrastructural support, individuals struggle to find confidence in the state's intentions, which exacerbates vaccine resistance.
Parental scepticism about a vaccine is another major hurdle. Without adequate engagement and easily accessible information, individuals can often be swayed by unsupported sources and be misinformed regarding side effects, which would destabilise a "voluntary" program. Therefore, the federal and local authorities need to work collaboratively to dissuade hostile rhetoric concerning the vaccine, which in turn will quell uncertainty.
Legally, the state has the right to focus on mandatory vaccination in the pursuit of achieving the good health of its citizens. Governments usually follow the utilitarian argument for vaccination, as its preferable to vaccinate sceptics "for their own good".
A critical appraisal of mandatory vaccination in India is essential. Making the vaccine mandatory is just preliminary. It has to be accompanied by the government, demonstrating that it is serious about public health and is willing to act in tandem with the public. It has to hold itself open to scrutiny and be ready to engage with the public since the development of trust is a necessary antecedent to a successful partnership.
Such an alliance would allow the government to better tackle issues concerning hesitancy and a lack of coverage. This engagement has to be demonstrated before a vaccination drive, and by the state medical officers to ensure that a person gets adequate information and state support. The government also needs to hold other agencies fully accountable and adhere to the highest scrutiny for vaccine approval.