Compulsory vaccination: Public benefit or individual’s right limitation

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Mass vaccination and its controversial assessments have become key issues under the COVID-19 pandemic. Outbreaks of diseases and popularity of anti-vaccination movements require a study of legal foundations for medical interventions and freedom restrictions which are considered as the result of serious risks to health and sanitary-epidemiological well-being of the population. The question is what should be prioritized - paternalistic powers of the state or individual rights and freedoms to decide what risks to take. In terms of responsibility distribution, people often consider vaccines as more dangerous than infectious diseases, which makes compulsory vaccination a legal phenomenon of particular importance. In the contemporary legislation, there are various national approaches to the individual autonomy and freedoms. In some countries, vaccination is directly linked to the possibility to study (USA), in others it is associated with ‘public health’ (Australia), financial sanctions (Poland) or freedoms’ limitations (Pakistan). In terms of public health ethics, vaccination is similar to the use of seat-belts in cars, and compulsory vaccination policy is ethically justified by the same reasons as mandatory seat-belt laws: at first, they were met with great opposition; later the use of seat belts acquired the significance of not only a legal but also a social norm precisely because it was made mandatory. The similar approach is applicable to vaccination: the policy of compulsory vaccination can make it a social norm. However, in the legal perspective, compulsory vaccination is a compulsory medical intervention which raises the question about whether it is possible to limit individual rights and freedoms in the name of public health safety. The article considers contradictory issues in the state policy of compulsory vaccination and its legal support. The author presents a definition of compulsory vaccination, identifies its types, describes the specifics of its national legal regulation and sanctions for the refusal to be vaccinated, and explains its social necessity and expediency as a public good.

About the authors

Oleg A. Yastrebov

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4943-6940

Doctor of Legal Sciences, Doctor of Economic Sciences, Full Professor, Rector, Editor-in-chief of the RUDN Journal of law

6 Miklukho-Maklaya str., Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation


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Copyright (c) 2022 Yastrebov O.A.

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