As drugmakers develop a vaccine to fight against the coronavirus, legal question are emerging: will the government require you to get it? Could people really get jail time or a fine?
Unfortunately yes, according to Dov Fox, a law professor and director of the Center for health law policy and bioethics at the University of San Diego.
“States can compel vaccinations in more or less intrusive ways,” he said in a interview. “They can limit access to schools, services and jobs if people dont get vaccinated. They could force them to pay a fine or even lock them up in jail.”
Fox noted authorites in the US have NEVER attempted to jail people for reffusing to vaccinate, but other countries like France have adopted the aggressive tactic.
In 1905 a landmark U.S. supreme court case, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the court ruled Massachusetts had the authority to fine people who refused vaccinations for smallpox.
That case formed the legal basis to make vaccines a requirement at schools, and has continued to be upheld in subsequent decisions. “Courts have found that when medical necessity requires it, the public health outweighs the individual rights and liberties at stake,” Fox said.
In 2019, New York City passed an ordinance that fined people who refused a measles vaccination.
Recent protests over face coverings show that there can be significant backlash to a vaccine mandate, Fox said. Just because states have the power to do it, doesnt mean its the best policy, he added.
Even though states would have the authority to mandate the vaccinations, there’s even more doubt that Congress could even enact a federal requirement.
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