Is Mandating the Vaccine Immoral?


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

On Nov. 4, Dr. Shane Drefcinski, a philosophy professor department chair at UW-Platteville, gave a presentation in Doudna Hall in during which he questioned the morality and ethics of mandating COVID-19 vaccination. Dr. Drefcinski’s primary argument revolved around the Nuremberg Code, a set of principles that protects the rights of subjects in medical research, which states that, “the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.” 

Drefcinski also stressed the importance of the Principle of Informed Consent and the Categorical Imperative. The Principle of Informed Consent means that human participants should be able to enter research voluntarily and understand fully what they are participating in and the Categorical Imperative is a moral obligation that is binding in all circumstances. 

Dr. Drefcinski’s argument is as follows: all forms of coercion violate the Principle of Informed Consent and the Categorical Imperative. A COVID-19 vaccine mandate is a form of coercion. Therefore, a COVID-19 vaccine mandate violates the Principle of Informed Consent and the Categorical Imperative. Every mandate that violates the Principle of Informed Consent and the Categorical Imperative is immoral. Therefore, the COVID-19 mandate is immoral. 

Dr. Drefcinski also brought to light the recentness of the development of the COVID-19 vaccines and how their long-term consequences are unknown. Drefcinski also raised questions about the history of the CDC, specifically in regards to the 1976 swine flu vaccine, which initially appeared to be safe; however, the vaccines were correlated with an increase in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), The NIH describe it as “a rare neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks part of its peripheral nervous system” and can lead to paralysis. Federal health officials decided that the possibility of an association with GBS required stopping immunization and a moratorium on the use of influenza vaccines was announced in December 1976.

Dr. Drefcinski further explained his concern with how vaccine manufacturers are shielded from liability, including a citation from the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 Part B, which provides: “… that no vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine-related injury or death: (1) Resulting from unavoidable side effects; or (2) solely due to the manufacturer’s failure to provide direct warnings.” Dr. Drefcinski argued that if the goal truly is to get more people vaccinated, then companies should not be so focused on mandating the vaccine, but rather focus on why exactly people are hesitant to get vaccinated and focus on obtaining the ability to hold vaccine manufacturers and companies accountable for the risks associated with their products and any adverse reactions. 

Dr. Drefcinski ended his presentation on a series of rhetorical questions for the audience, asking the questions of: Why has ‘unvaccinated’ become synonymous with “contagious”? Aren’t those different conditions? The vaccinated can still contract, transmit, and die from COVID-19. Why is this the fault of the unvaccinated rather than the vaccines? 

Dr. Richard Dhyanchand and Dr. Ryan Haasl from the biology department offered prepared rebuttles to some of the portions of Dr. Drefcinski’s argument that concern science to end the conversation.