Should vaccines be mandatory?

Gary Finnegan

Gary Finnegan

March 24th, 2017

Gary Finnegan

‘The Great Debate: experts explore the balance between freedom of choice and community responsibility’

Most of us have the vaccines our doctors recommend, helping to reduce the risk that we – and those around us – will suffer vaccine-preventable diseases.

But what happens when people opt out?

If you decide not to visit your dentist, choose to eat badly or refuse to wear a helmet while cycling, you put yourself at risk. The direct impact on other people’s health is (pretty much) zero.

With vaccines, the health of your community could be affected. You might catch – and spread – infectious diseases at school, in the workplace or in public places.

If enough people in a community are vaccinated, ‘herd immunity’ can be achieved. This makes it very difficult for infectious diseases to spread because a significant majority of people are protected. 

Given that we have a stake in our neighbours’ vaccination status, is it reasonable to insist that everyone have their vaccines? Should it be a condition of accessing education, employment or social payments?

To help understand the issues at play, we sat down with some leading experts and asked whether mandatory vaccination is the answer to minimising the impact of diseases such as measles, diphtheria and pertussis.

Dr Julie Leask of the University of Sydney, says regulation is useful but that absolute mandates go too far. “We need requirements that encourage parents to get their children fully vaccinated,” she says. “But there need to be exemptions for people that don’t vaccinate. It should be harder to get an exemption than to get a vaccine.”

Regulations work, she notes, and help to push the vaccination rates up. However, hard-to-get exemptions are an important component of ‘firm but fair’ policies. Removing other barriers to vaccination, educating health providers and providing strong information systems are also vital pieces of the puzzle.

It’s not all about childhood vaccination. Dr Leask also points to the risk of disease outbreaks resulting from low vaccination rates in adolescents and adults. This, she says, should be part of a multi-part approach to improving public health rather than expecting mandates alone to solve the problem.

Professor Saad Omer, Emory University, takes a similar view. Mandates should, he believes, be used as ‘nudges’. There should be exceptions for those with strong objections but these must be more difficult to secure than the vaccine itself.

“We have shown that there is a reduction in vaccine refusal – and increase in vaccine coverage – if you change the balance of convenience of obtaining exemptions,” he says.

From an ethical perspective, this is the most defendable option, according to Professor Omer: “That strikes the balance between individual autonomy and the community benefit of vaccines.”

Not everyone is so sure that this approach goes far enough. Will appealing to people’s sense of community, and nudging those who are a little hesitant, be sufficient to reach herd immunity (or ‘community immunity’ as it is something known).

Dr Katie Attwell, Murdoch University in Australia, explains why the concept of ‘community immunity’ lacks meaning for people in an individualistic culture.

“The concept of doing things for others has started to break down with the advent of neoliberal ideology, the cult of the individual, and with the idea that if we make decisions about our lives to benefit ourselves we are rewarded,” she says. “It’s very hard to then make claims that when it comes to vaccination you should be looking after other people.”

In addition to this “community deficit”, Dr Attwell says that for some who refuse vaccines, the very idea of herd immunity is open to question. They may not hold a scientific view but, unfortunately, some people remain unconvinced by research.

“Some parents would not see themselves as free-riders benefitting from other people’s decisions to vaccinate,” she explains. “They don’t see that vaccines work, and that what others are doing impacts on their health and wellbeing.”

In light of this, health policymakers have a serious problem: they are pitching the concept of community immunity to individuals whose faith in ‘community’ and ‘immunity’ are strained.

Now what?

Dr Attwell says it’s time to look at all “tools in the toolbox”. These include persuasion, appealing to people’s values, and ensuring vaccines are accessible.

If all of this is in place and vaccination rates are too low, it may become necessary to consider more “coercive” options. The alternative would be to facilitate outbreaks of disease.

Does this mean we should reluctantly embrace vaccine mandates in Europe or would it do more harm than good?

Watch the videos to get the full story and share your thoughts below.


  1. Jacek


    August 24th, 2017

    We need education explain ing the need of vaccination in a lay language, to counter the elucubrations of antivac people

  2. Joanna


    January 6th, 2019

    Vaccines should be mandatory (except the flu shot).

    • Carlos


      January 13th, 2021

      why except flu shot

  3. Ásgeir Valur Sigurdsson

    Ásgeir Valur Sigurdsson

    January 25th, 2019

    There should be no child vaccinations. Vaccine manufacturing should no longer be recommended for everyone. People caught attempting to manufacture vaccines meant to be injected into children should be arrested. Vaccines should be treated as one of the darkest chapters in human history. Because of the potential of vaccines to carry disease, kindergartens should no longer make it mandatory for parents to vaccinate their children. Vaccine supporters are basically just junkies who just want a shot because they can´t conceive of a day without a needle.

    • ManicVirus


      February 14th, 2019

      this is the dumbest thing iv ever read go get an educated and stfu

    • Yaejin Son

      Yaejin Son

      February 17th, 2019

      But think about how life was when vaccines were not invented. Millions of people died because of unknown diseases and they could not prevent it or cure it. Having vaccine saved numerous people by now and I am sure it will save numerous people from diseases which can be fatal when spread. We are living in a blessed life and country which has vaccines. Hundreds of children on the other side of the world are losing their lives every minute because they have no vaccines.

    • lou


      February 17th, 2019

      Another idiot who thinks he is smarter then others ever watch a child with whooping cough ever see someone with polio suffer for the rest of their lives of course not me 63 1/2 years of living with polio and the pain I endure everyday you are an uneducated person with no knowledge and yet you seem to think you have a right to say something you DO NOT until you have lived through these situations so stop spreading your ignorance and if you have children well you should not be allowed to keep them with your inability to understand the science

    • Christine Ramsey

      Christine Ramsey

      February 20th, 2019

      I honestly can’t tell whether you’re being serious or sarcastic. If you’re being serious, it’s very worrying. Have you tried therapy?

    • Redd


      March 1st, 2019

      This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. How about we want a better chance for our children to lube? You have the audacity to call a 9 year old a needle junkie!?!

    • Copypasta


      March 13th, 2019

      All im reading is “hndenijehacubfruab ifneia a hfIHFU HBUE RWNGABRUBQ USBRUFW BURKBFWUB essential oils”

    • Lakyn Sullivan

      Lakyn Sullivan

      March 21st, 2019

      Do you mind if I use this info for my debate topic at school about this

      • Gary Finnegan

        Gary Finnegan

        March 22nd, 2019

        Not at all – feel free to use any material on this site.
        Good luck with the debate

    • Landon Sbeve

      Landon Sbeve

      April 22nd, 2019

      Do you know aNyThInG

    • Laurence Wells

      Laurence Wells

      May 6th, 2019

      What are you talking about?

    • Me


      November 23rd, 2020

      That’s bait.

    • micheal


      February 11th, 2021

      And what are anti-vaxxers , idiots who think their uneducated thoughts are more important than medical professionals. Or are they just idiots who are so bored with their lives that they make up stupid shit in order to feel good about themselves.

  4. T Berry

    T Berry

    February 9th, 2019

    It should be against the law in the United States for any child to attend school without being 100% vaccinated educate yourself people

  5. lou


    February 17th, 2019

    Another idiot who thinks he is smarter then others ever watch a child with whooping cough ever see someone with polio suffer for the rest of their lives of course not me 63 1/2 years of living with polio and the pain I endure everyday you are an uneducated person with no knowledge and yet you seem to think you have a right to say something you DO NOT until you have lived through these situations so stop spreading your ignorance and if you have children well you should not be allowed to keep them with your inability to understand the science

  6. Brett


    February 22nd, 2019

    I don’t believe anyone has the right to tell anyone. That i am going to inject something into your body , and you have no say in the matter. Thats communism.

    • Vladimir Putin

      Vladimir Putin

      March 15th, 2019

      What’s wrong with communism

      • Stalin


        November 23rd, 2020

        He’s got a point.

    • nathan


      March 15th, 2019

      but it stops people from being killed from stupid diseases lol

    • giiglefats


      April 30th, 2019

      thats communism lmao what

  7. a re tard

    a re tard

    March 7th, 2019

    vaccines are pretty epic tbh

  8. Jake


    March 18th, 2019

    Mandatory vaccines is a terrible idea. First of all, taking vaccines is against some religions and cause disabilities. Second, many of the diseases vaccines “cure” aren’t around any more and the vaccine is unnecessary. Third, mandatory vaccines takes away personal rights and that would be communism. Weather you agree with vaccines or not , mandatory vaccines should not sound okay. There are people who know they are allergic and people who’s religion doesn’t allow vaccines.

    • Gary Finnegan

      Gary Finnegan

      March 19th, 2019

      Where vaccine mandates are in place, medical exemptions are available. In some countries, religious exemptions are also available.

    • Hunter


      March 29th, 2019

      You are entirely correct but it wouldn’t be communism and they still should be mandatory vaccines are still needed as recent studies have shown that diseases that were gone are starting to form again and come back because we don’t vaccinate A: our children, B: our selves and for some professions you need the vaccines. In words, though you are correct your comment about communism and vaccines being no longer needed is invalid and uneducated, and in opinion straight out bigotry.

    • Landon Sbeve

      Landon Sbeve

      April 22nd, 2019

      thats why the article said RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS are LEGAL

  9. Corinne Welp

    Corinne Welp

    April 2nd, 2019

    The objective of vaccination is a sound one, no argument there.
    However the products to achieve that objective are the problem.

    There is a lack of trust in vaccinations, because of their chemical compounds and the huge profit to be gained from them.
    The masses are treated as brainless idiots that should swallow whatever the know-it-alls tell them to.

    It has all been tested and approved by the FDA.
    Well has there never been an approved chemical substance found wanting and taken off the shelves because of its damaging side-effects?
    Yes, there has. And many of them as well.
    So, FDA approval means nothing.
    These tests are expensive and since the invested money needs to be returned in order to make a profit, whatever the outcome of the test, the product (good or bad) needs to be sold.

    Conclusion: Of course people want to be free of diseases, the question is why are we all so diseased?
    Could it be because our natural habitat is systematically polluted by chemicals?

  10. nada


    April 22nd, 2019

    are you kidding me? Vaccines provide necessary precautions to possibly life threatening diseases! you hear of things like measles or polio and think eh those will never reach me. without Vaccines your chances of getting these literally sky rocket and the more people around you that get them the safer the general community and people who cannot receive the shot themselves are. making children get them as a requirement before kindergarten is very smart because then it cannot be put off and the younger kids learn about protecting their health the better.

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