Amsterdam Research Institute for Legal Studies

There is no ‘mandatory vaccination’: different policies require different arguments

27June2018 16:00 - 17:00


Paul Scholten Centre Colloquium with Mark Navin

Venue: Roeterseiland Room A3.01

  • Roeterseilandcampus - building A

    Nieuwe Achtergracht 166 | 1018 WV Amsterdam
    +31 (0)20 525 5340

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In response to rising rates of vaccine refusal, many participants in academic, policy, and popular debates have recently advocated mandatory vaccination. But ‘mandatory vaccination’ is not a particular policy intervention. Instead, there are diverse means by which states can use coercion to combat vaccine refusal. Recent reforms in Australia, France, Italy, USA, and elsewhere illustrate some of this diversity.
In this paper, I introduce a taxonomy for classifying mandatory vaccination policies, according to their scope (which vaccines to require), sanctions (which kind of penalty to impose on vaccine refusers), severity (what magnitude of penalty to impose on vaccine refusers), and selectivity (how to enforce vaccine mandates). Furthermore, I argue that ethical, political, and pragmatic considerations count in favor of different answers to questions about the scope, sanctions, severity, and selectivity of mandatory vaccination policies. It follows that there can be no general justification of mandatory vaccination. However, I argue that we can identify some features of mandatory vaccination policies for which stronger or weaker arguments can be given. And, in this way, we can identify ideal types of mandatory vaccination that are more or less likely to be justified. 


Mark Navin is associate professor of philosophy at Oakland University. He works on applied ethics (especially bioethics) and social and political philosophy (including global justice). In his recent work, Mark has focused on vaccination. In 2015 he published his monograph Values and Vaccine Refusal: Hard Questions in Epistemology, Ethics and Health Care (Routledge, 2015).


Research colloquium, organised by the Paul Scholten Centre. This colloquium is open to all, no registration required. A copy of the paper can be obtained via

Published by  Paul Scholten Centre