Should vaccination be compulsory?

Lawrence Gostin • NOVEMBER 22, 2016

Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University Law Center discusses some of the health and legal issues surrounding vaccinations and vaccine mandates. According to Gostin, disagreements about vaccination have been going on for centuries. He argues that vaccination is an extremely safe and efficacious form of prevention, but notes that the success we have had over serious childhood illnesses has lulled some people into a false sense of security. Gostin comments on the legality of state vaccine mandates, saying that mandated vaccination is Constitutional under the doctrine of general applicability. (If a state makes a religious exemption, however, then that exemption must apply to all religions equally in order to satisfy the establishment clause.) Gostin argues for mandates, but does not recommend doing away with exemptions. Rather, he recommends making the requirements for exemptions substantial, such as by requiring counseling, health department approval, and/or a signed and witnessed affidavit.

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