Should all vaccines be mandatory?
Updated: Jun 15
Lakshmi Paluri, Year 10, considers to what extent we should give choices to our society when it comes to vaccines.
Mandatory vaccination would be a solution beneficial to the community due to its provision of public protection against disease and its prevention of the spread of silent infection between people which could potentially pose a risk of the vulnerable population catching disease.
Compulsion of vaccination is rarely introduced among the public due to questions around ethics and autonomy. However, this hesitation to reinforce mandatory vaccination has had devastating impacts such as deaths due to outbreaks of measles back in 2018 for instance, which caused a staggering 140000 deaths worldwide. This occurred due to the failure to fully vaccinate, which was mainly caused by concerns about possible vaccine side effects. Many parents hesitate to vaccinate children and optional vaccination further supports these false concerns. The 2018 measles disaster proves that diseases are more dangerous than vaccines and parents are putting their children at risk by not vaccinating them. Failure to vaccinate causes the comebacks of diseases such as measles.
A large number of people- called anti vaxxers- oppose vaccination for a variety of reasons. An experiment carried out to investigate the logic behind anti vaxxers’ views showed that the main reasons why people hesitate to vaccinate are mistrust of vaccine benefit, worries about unforeseen future effects, concerns about commercial profiteering and preference for natural immunity. However, there is evidence against these concerns.
Vaccination is the best solution that we can turn to and side effects such as seizures or heart problems or maybe even deaths are extremely rare- close to non-existent. Alternative solutions to approach infectious diseases do exist. For example, quarantine, antibiotics/ painkillers, hygiene, clean water supply and so on. However, vaccination is the solution that reassures safety. If vaccination is not reinforced and people depend upon factors such as hygiene to protect them against diseases, outbreaks will begin and eradicated infections will reappear.
Furthermore, many glorify the idea of natural immunity, assuming that it provides strong protection against disease and the need for vaccination is non-existent when natural immunity is available. Nevertheless, there are numerous drawbacks to this argument. Firstly, natural immunity does defend the body against disease to a certain extent. In fact, natural immunity does equip the body with good, broad immunity against a range of diseases.
However, the protection it provides against COVID-19 for example, is approximately 65% whereas the degree to which the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines provide protection are 87% and 71%. Moreover, further research has shown that natural immunity plus vaccination provides extra protection, with two AstraZeneca doses along with natural immunity providing 90% protection and two Pfizer doses with natural immunity providing 95% protection against COVID-19. Thus, vaccination must be made mandatory as this will increase the vaccination rate and reduce the likelihood of people catching and transmitting disease.
In addition to this, mandatory vaccination would improve the current situation by a lot. In the US, 97% of those hospitalised and 99.5% of those who have died as a result of COVID-19 were unvaccinated. A small study carried out by Israel's health ministry investigated the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine, inspecting whether its effects were waning. This showed that breakthrough infections indeed did occur in the healthcare workers examined but this was just 2% of 1497 people. In this rare few, infections were largely mild or asymptomatic but 19% of those with breakthrough infections underwent persistent symptoms that lasted over six weeks.
The vaccine, however, is not to blame for this as the severity of infection is hugely dependent on “neutralising antibody titers” and “underlying conditions” of specific people that may not trigger the desired and expected immune response. Hence, making vaccination obligatory would increase the vaccination rate, which would result in herd immunity. COVID-19 vaccines provide protection to a huge extent, but for those that do not have the required immune response and those who do not have the vaccine available to them or cannot take it, herd immunity achieved through mandatory vaccination policies will protect them and will- in due course- eradicate the disease as a whole.
Many people choose to avoid vaccination out of fear of its side effects. Vaccines may have side effects but these are immensely rare and this type of treatment is only given to the public after it is deeply analysed and experts have decided that it is safe. In any vaccination, be it the MMR vaccine or the COVID-19 vaccine, benefits certainly outweigh the risks. An example of this is the case of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been investigated to have caused blood clots. According to data, 1 in 250000 people will get blood clots due to the vaccine, just as 1 in 2000 women will develop a blood clot on account of taking the combined oral contraceptive pill or 1 in 1000 people a year will develop a blood clot as a consequence of air travel.
A large number of people are deterred by this information, put under the impression that their health is better off without the vaccine. However, in COVID-19 patients, the tendency to get pulmonary embolism is 7.8% and deep vein thrombosis 11.2%. Out of those patients with COVID in ICU, 30-70% develop blood clots in the deep veins of the legs or the lungs and 1 in 4 of them develop pulmonary embolism. While the risk of blood clots from the vaccine is 0.0004%, the risk of blood clots from COVID-19 is exceedingly higher.
Therefore, the benefits of the vaccine unquestionably exceed the risks. Due to this, making vaccination mandatory would reduce the number of blood clots, severe illnesses due to the diseases and deaths. It would reduce the chance of people having to endure such situations.