Once a coronavirus vaccine becomes readily available to the public, states will have the authority to fine or jail people who refuse to get the vaccine. That’s the opinion of a San Diego-based attorney who says there is precedent for his opinion.
According to a report by ABC 10 News San Diego, Dov Fox, a law professor and the director of the Center For Health Law Policy and Bioethics at the University of San Diego, believes a 1905 United States Supreme Court ruling in Jacobson v. Massachusetts sets a legal precedent. While authorities in the United States have never attempted to jail someone for failing to get a vaccination, France is one example of a nation which has used the drastic measure.
In the 1905 case, the high court ruled that Massachusetts did have the authority to fine people if they refused to take the smallpox vaccine. The legal ruling formed the basis for requiring vaccines at schools. The decision has been upheld numerous times over in the more than 100 years since it was announced.
Fox is quoted in the ABC 10 News San Diego report as saying, “States can compel vaccinations in more or less intrusive ways. They can limit access to schools or services or jobs if people don’t get vaccinated. They could force them to pay a fine or even lock them up in jail. Courts have found that when medical necessity requires it, the public health outweighs the individual rights and liberties at stake.”
Here on the east coast, New York adopted an ordinance last year which fined a person for refusing the get the measles vaccination. The San Diego television report points out that Fox believes recent protests across the country concerning a requirement to wear face coverings when in public could make a COVID-19 vaccination requirement extremely tricky.
Another consideration. While states might mandate such a law, would Congress act to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory? Would the Supreme Court find such a law unconstitutional? What about religious exemptions?
These are all questions to ponder in the future as pharmaceutical companies move closer to developing a vaccine for this dreaded virus, a virus which has left so many Americans unemployed and so many Americans dead.