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Quickly Noted: Mandatory Vaccination

October 19, 2009

Last week, a judge in New York state issued a temporary restraining order against a New York State directive ordering all health care workers to receive both H1N1 influenza and seasonal flu vaccines. Even the Reveres posted on the matter (and subsequently posted on something I’ve thought was a great idea for years, except instead of stickers, I say they should be forced to wear masks).

Now, I’m about as far from a lawyer as you can get, so take this with a grain of salt, but I thought that mandatory vaccinations weren’t a new idea:

See Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

See school required vaccinations. (see Zucht v. King)

To me, the Jacobson case (while obviously ridiculously outdated) is comparable. In the face of a communicable disease outbreak that is actively causing excess disease and death, the state compelled one of its citizens to receive a vaccine that would protect the lives of those around them. Jacobson objected, and was forced to receive the vaccine in the interest of the PUBLIC’S HEALTH. Given that he was not performing head of bed procedures  on immuno-compromised patients or pregnant women, he actually had a better argument than nurses and healthcare workers against receiving the vaccine.

So what to do?

For me, I see no problem with mandating vaccination for influenza. Every year it’s proven to be safe. And for those that have a religious or philosophical objection, they can apply for an exemption. The exemption would require signing a document affirming that vaccines are the best way to prevent influenza transmission and that their refusal to receive a vaccine may permit the transmission of the potentially fatal disease in the healthcare setting. To wit, the healthcare setting, in order to protect itself from the liability that their employee is exposing them to, should require the worker to be masked while on the grounds of the campus (or office, etc.). Am I being unreasonable here?

Again, I’m no lawyer, so for a more reasoned approach on the matter, an anonymous (not me) letter was published earlier this year calling for a twenty-first century Jacobson v. Massachusetts (PDF direct download).

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