Making salient ethics arguments about vaccine mandates: A California case study.
Vaccine mandates can take many forms, and different kinds of mandates can implicate an array of values in diverse ways. It follows that good ethics arguments about particular vaccine mandates will attend to the details of individual policies. Furthermore, attention to particular mandate policies-and to attributes of the communities they aim to govern-can also illuminate which ethics arguments may be more salient in particular contexts. If ethicists want their arguments to make a difference in policy, they should attend to these kinds of empirical considerations. This paper focuses on the most common and contentious vaccine mandate reform in the contemporary United States: the elimination of nonmedical exemptions (NMEs) to school and daycare vaccine mandates. It highlights, in particular, debates about California's Senate Bill 277 (SB277), which was the first successful recent effort to eliminate NMEs in that country. We use media, secondary sources, and original interviews with policymakers and activists to identify and evaluate three ethics arguments offered by critics of SB277: parental freedom, informed consent, and children's rights to care and education. We then turn to one ethics argument often offered by advocates of SB277: harm prevention. We note, however, that three arguments for mandates that are common in the immunization ethics literature-fairness/free-riding, children's rights to vaccination, and utilitarianism-did not play a role in debates about SB277.
Navin MC, Attwell K. Making salient ethics arguments about vaccine mandates: A California case study. Bioethics. 2023 Nov;37(9):854-861. doi: 10.1111/bioe.13227. PMID: 37792305.