“Vaccination is a barbarous practice and one of the most fatal of all the delusions current in our time. Conscientious objectors to vaccination should stand alone, if need be, against the whole world, in defense of their conviction.” — Mahatma Gandhi (McMinn 257)

Gandhi said these words almost seven decades back. While advancement in medical science may have made vaccines more effective and safe, social media has, in the last few years, rekindled people’s concerns over the potential risks involved with vaccines. (Stecula et al., 2020) Consequently, even in the year 2021, there are people who completely or partially agree with Gandhi’s view, which he held more than half a century ago.

The relevance of this debate for businesses is that when a disease affects any community, whether it is an epidemic affecting a smaller area or a pandemic affecting almost the whole world, it disrupts the economic activity there. This could range from a shortage of skilled workers to an interruption in the demand and supply of certain goods and services due to measures taken by governments to control the spread of the disease. These changes could have grave consequences for businesses especially small businesses that have fewer resources and therefore a limited capacity to withstand unusual circumstances. Vaccines, however, provide quick relief and curb the spread of diseases almost immediately and help things normalize quicker; Provided a large number of people get vaccinated in a short amount of time. But this becomes difficult because when vaccination is made optional a large number of people, due to vaccine hesitancy, decide not to get vaccinated. Forced vaccination, on the other hand, can help prevent this from happening, and can play a pivotal role in normalizing things quickly, which could in most cases save hundreds or maybe thousands of small businesses from declaring bankruptcy and closing forever.

The history of vaccines began when Edward Jenne, a country doctor in Berkeley, England, invented the world’s first vaccine, which created immunity against smallpox in 1796. (Stern et al., 2005) Since then vaccines have been used for over 200 years to prevent many fatal diseases like smallpox and measles.

According to the World Health Organization, vaccines prevented 10 million deaths between 2010 and 2015, and protected millions more from disabilities and suffering caused by various diseases like diarrhea, whooping cough, polio, measles, and pneumonia. (World Health Organization, 2017)

As far as their effectiveness and safety are concerned, some vaccines, like the measles vaccines are about 97 percent effective at preventing the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And according to a report published by the National Academy of Medicine United States, which reviewed over 1,000 vaccine studies, serious reactions to vaccines are extremely rare. Even when there are some side effects, according to the CDC, 90% of them are very mild and not serious. (Rettner, 2017)

Still many immunologists and policymakers remain divided, and advocate for one of the two contrasting perspectives on mass vaccination policy: ‘vaccination should be directly or indirectly forced’ or ‘vaccination should be completely voluntary with no compulsion’. Forced vaccination can be carried out in two ways: by creating laws that impose penalties on people who remain unvaccinated, or by using indirect methods, such as making it mandatory to get vaccinated to study in a school, or travel outside the country. Whereas voluntary vaccination policy gives people the freedom to choose. It can still encourage vaccination using awareness campaigns or rewards, like Australia giving parents who get their children vaccinated a monetary reward.

According to Cynthia Leifer, Associate Professor of immunology at Cornell University, vaccination should be made mandatory for highly contagious or extremely deadly diseases. She supports this using the example of smallpox, which would not have been completely eradicated without the implementation of mandatory vaccination in 1859 and 1809, by England, and Massachusetts US. She also highlights the issue of the Internet spreading misinformation e.g. a fake study claiming that the MMR vaccine can cause autism. (Leifer) Claire McCarthy, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing, adopts a similar stance, by citing a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that in recent measles outbreaks majority of those infected were unvaccinated, thereby establishing a link between a decline in vaccination and increase in disease rates. Moreover, according to her, people who are hesitant about vaccines, always worry about the side effects, forgetting the effects of the diseases themselves that the vaccine prevents. This according to her is more dangerous and the risk of getting infected is also much higher than the risk of any vaccine side effect. (McCarthy)

Conversely, Jennifer Margulis, a fellow at Brandeis University, argues that vaccination should only be encouraged and not forced. Her argument is that a parent in the United States should have the freedom to choose a vaccination schedule followed in Norway, since depending on the situation, the Norwegian schedule could be a better choice. (Margulis) Likewise, Cornelia Betsch, concludes after studying how forcing one vaccine affects people’s perception about vaccines overall, that forced vaccination created a negative vaccination attitude among the recipients, and in the second voluntary vaccination, decreased vaccination uptake by 39%. (Betsch) Barbara Fisher, president of ‘National Vaccine Information Center’, argues that everyone has unique micro-biome and epigenetic influences that react to vaccines differently. For some people, there will be a 100% chance of suffering the side effects of vaccines, but there is no way to identify these individuals. Therefore, according to her, making vaccination mandatory is a violation of the human right ‘informed consent to medical risk-taking’, which governs the ethical practice of modern medicine. (Fisher)

Margulis’s argument relies on the assumption that people know what is best for them, which isn’t always true, considering the misinformation being spread by social media. Similarly, both Betsch and Fisher make valid arguments, however the number of people who face severe reactions still remains very low, and in the case of highly contagious diseases, vaccination doesn’t just affect the individual, but the entire society. Therefore considering arguments presented to support both perspectives, I conclude that it is important for governments to force mass immunization against highly contagious diseases, to prevent the next global pandemic and manage the current one, as times have changed —since Gandhi said those words—and so have the circumstances.


McMinn, Shane. The Asylum. Lulu, 2017. Google Books,


Stecula, Dominik Andrzej, et al. “How trust in experts and media use affect acceptance of common anti-vaccination claims.” The Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Misinformation Review 2020.

Stern, Alexandra Minna, and Howard Markel. “The History Of Vaccines And Immunization: Familiar Patterns, New Challenges.”, HEALTH AFFAIRS.

World Health Organisation. “The power of vaccines: still not fully utilized.”

Rettner, Rachael. “Just How Safe Are Vaccines? Here Are the Numbers.” Live Science, 12 January 2017.

Leifer, Cynthia. “Mandatory vaccination will protect all citizens.” The Pharmaceutical Journal, 2015. The Pharmaceutical Journal.

McCarthy, Claire. “Why we need to make it harder for parents to refuse vaccines.” Harvard Health Blog, 6 September 2016.

Margulis, Jennifer. “Parents Deserve to Have a Choice About Vaccination.” The New York Times, 23 March 2014.

Betsch, Cornelia, and R. Böhm. “Detrimental effects of introducing partial compulsory vaccination: experimental evidence.” European Journal of Public Health, 2016. European Journal of Public Health.

Fisher, Barbara. “Forcing Vaccination on Every Child Undermines Civil Liberties.” Leaps Mag, 28 March 2019

Shahwaiz has a passion for Economics, Computer Science, Psychology, and Environmental Conservation. He has published a research paper in the International Journal of Energy Research, led anti-plastic projects, and is the Founding President of Youth Initiative Pakistan. He has also won numerous Model-UN Conferences, served as Secretary-General for the International Virtual MUN for Youth’20, and was awarded a Gold Honour in the International Youth Math Challenge. Currently, he is studying in A-1 at LGS JT. In his free time, he plays the guitar, reads literature, and helps organize school events.
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