Why Can’t Vaccination Be Voluntary?

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 5 2015 @ 7:41am

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig observes that, in “a variety of European countries, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, and Finland, high vaccination coverage (up to 99 percent in Finland, for example) has been achieved without the use of mandates.” But this won’t work in America:

Insofar as we detest mandates because they are an affront to our self-sovereignty, it seems unlikely that removing mandates and encouraging vaccination through voluntary means would do much to improve the willingness of fiercely individualistic Americans to risk their health or comfort for the good of the whole society. As Michael Gerson once wrote of capitalism, a mandate-free vaccination regime enacted strictly out of American disdain for obligation would rely on virtues it would not create.

But there’s another hitch. As researchers from a number of European universities wrote in the scientific journal Eurosurveillance, “a national healthcare system should promote and actively offer those vaccines that have been proven to be safe, effective, and with a positive public health impact. In a world where people trust health authorities, more compliance with national recommendations can be established.” In other words, the creation of a healthcare system that is both accessible and trustworthy is a key factor in ensuring widespread voluntary vaccination.