Mandatory vaccination is about ethics, not just science

Bioethics expert Maxwell Smith believes the decision to implement mandatory vaccinations will rest largely on whether they can be ethically justified.

 January 10, 2022
Maxwell Smith

 January 10, 2022

Provinces may have to introduce mandatory vaccination policies in the coming months to deal with mounting COVID-19 cases, according to federal health minister Jean-Yves Duclos. He said that while rapid tests, masking and social distancing combat the future spread of COVID-19, they won’t prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

Maxwell Smith

Maxwell Smith

Western University bioethics expert Maxwell Smith believes that while many look to the science when considering the value of vaccine mandates, the decision to implement them will rest largely on whether they can be ethically justified.

“Whether vaccination should be made mandatory is as much a question about the science as it is about ethics. As a case in point, the social divisiveness caused by proposals to make vaccination mandatory is not a product of conflicting views about the science, but rather debates in ethics about coercion, infringements on individual liberty, and the steps that governments should take to protect the public’s health,” says Smith, an assistant professor at Western’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

Smith is available to media for interviews.

Also serving as associate director of Western’s Health Ethics, Law, & Policy (HELP) Lab, Smith studies the ethical considerations associated with mandatory vaccination policies, including when governments can be justified in using coercive measures that infringe upon individual liberty in order to protect the public’s health. He led the World Health Organization’s 2021 policy brief on the ethics of mandatory vaccination for COVID-19.

Commentary reflects the perspective and scholarly interest of Western faculty members and is not an articulation of official university policy on issues being addressed.

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