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Sound Off: Vaccine Mandate

Should people be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccine sound off hero
Image: Getty Images

Spring 2021

Photo Credit: Eileen Molony

Tina Tan, professor of pediatrics at the Feinberg School of Medicine

“Our goal right now is to get as many people vaccinated as possible so that we can control this pandemic. But if you try to mandate vaccines everywhere, you’re going to have a backlash because you infringe on people’s autonomy. Of course, everyone who wants the vaccine should be able to get it.”


Photo Credit: Eileen Molony

Mercedes Carnethon, Mary Harris Thompson Professor, professor of medicine and preventive medicine, and vice chair of preventive medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine 

“A national vaccine mandate should be in place, but it will never work, in part because we don’t have a national health care system to track who has been vaccinated. But from the scientific and public health perspectives, it would be the right thing to do to mandate things that keep the entire society safe. We have people who are dying as a result of contracting COVID and people who have long-term complications that are interfering with their quality of life. We could stop that if we present a unified front.”

Photo Credit: Eileen Molony

Juliet Sorensen, clinical professor of law and director and founder of the Northwestern Access to Health Project at the Pritzker School of Law

“It does appear that state and local jurisdictions have a constitutional basis to mandate vaccines.

“But there’s a distinction between ‘can’ and ‘should.’ And as a general matter, Americans — who are fond of individual liberties — are resistant to the notion that collective behavior should be ordered by a government authority.

“I think there’s a broad consensus among public health officials and policymakers that persuasion, public health messaging and, ultimately, having people voluntarily seeking the vaccine is a far better approach than ordering them to get it.” 

Photo Credit: Eileen Molony

Kelly Michelson ’04 GME, Julia and David Uihlein Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities, professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Feinberg School of Medicine

“I don’t think there’s any value in pushing it down people’s throats right now; that runs the risk of creating a backlash. If we can’t even get people to wear a mask, which carries exactly zero risk, I think we have to tread lightly. The message has to emphasize the value of vaccines — and their safety and efficacy.

“I think there has to be a push to get people to vaccinate, but we also have to understand why people are choosing not to vaccinate and then educate them about whatever their concerns are.”

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