Grace Edward discusses the ethics surrounding mandatory vaccines.
Austria has announced that it will mandate all residents over the age of 14 to be vaccinated for Covid-19, and all those who don’t will be faced with a fine of up to 3,600 euros every three months. After a meeting with the Alpine republic’s heads of state, Chancellor Schallenberg said: “In spite of months of persuasion, we have not managed to convince enough people to be vaccinated.” By making vaccination mandatory, Chancellor Schallenberg hopes to increase vaccination rates. However, this compulsory vaccination raises several issues.
It may violate the right of body autonomy. A mandatory vaccine opens up questions of ethical procedure amongst doctors. If someone refuses to have a vaccine, doctors cannot then vaccinate them against their will or they can be charged with battery. In Austria, if you refuse doctors cannot force the vaccine on you but instead will give a fine of 3,600 euros (which comes to around £3,000). This creates the issue of classism: the working class is more likely to be forced into a vaccine as the upper classes can afford the fines. The working class will either face an invasive vaccine or prison time. This appears like a law based on wealth; the wealthier you are the more choices you have. Choice, it seems, comes at a price.
Moreover, the vaccine is mandatory at the age of 14 and over, which provides an ethical issue relating to parental rights. In lower class families, parents will have less of a say in deciding whether or not their child should get the vaccine. Parents will be coerced into choosing between feeding children and paying bills or having the freedom to make medical decisions for them. When it comes down to it, lower-income families do not have equal liberties as the only practical choice is to accept the mandatory vaccine. It once again seems that the fines and mandatory vaccines are accommodating the wealthy and putting their principles above others. The wealth gap is already big enough: do we really need to degrade people in lower classes further by taking away their choice over their children’s medical decisions?
The other side of this argument is that we need to look at the bigger picture. This vaccine will prevent another lockdown for Austria and will save a lot of people’s lives in future years. Therefore, can it be said for Austria that to have a mandatory vaccine is more beneficial in the long run and is worth the cost of choice and principles? Should we do the same in Scotland?
According to the Scottish government statistics 4.3m people had received their first dose by 2 December 2021, which is just under 91% of the Scottish population. Due to the willingness of the Scottish population to be vaccinated, a mandatory vaccine would seem unnecessary. If a mandatory law came into place in Scotland there would likely be protests and riots, causing a lot of unrest within the nation.
When it comes down to it, is it really worth the sacrifice of choice, ethics and equality in status? Right now, a mandatory vaccine law in Scotland would be extreme and superfluous, and likely conflict with laws regarding medical ethics. It seems that, luckily, mandatory vaccinations are not necessary for us yet.
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