Journal of Medical Ethics
January 2018 – Volume 44 – 1
Public health ethics
PAPER: A libertarian case for mandatory vaccination
This paper argues that mandatory, government-enforced vaccination can be justified even within a libertarian political framework. If so, this implies that the case for mandatory vaccination is very strong indeed as it can be justified even within a framework that, at first glance, loads the philosophical dice against that conclusion. I argue that people who refuse vaccinations violate the ‘clean hands principle’, a (in this case, enforceable) moral principle that prohibits people from participating in the collective imposition of unjust harm or risk of harm. In a libertarian framework, individuals may be forced to accept certain vaccines not because they have an enforceable duty to serve the common, and not because cost–benefit analysis recommends it, but because anti-vaxxers are wrongfully imposing undue harm upon others.