Should COVID-19 Vaccines be Mandatory?

The Ethics of Vaccines, Personal Responsibility, and Harm

Jakub Ferencik
5 min readJul 25, 2021


A nationwide mandate for vaccines does not infringe on the liberties of the individual because of the more prescient obligation to not cause harm to citizens.

The cost of allowing for freedom outweighs the benefit of preventing harm.

The problem with liberty, as many thinkers have addressed, is that providing liberty to some may infringe on the liberties of others.

It is difficult to find a place of compromise in order to satisfy everyone.

In other words, the individual can feel threatened by the desire to meet the needs of the collective.

One example that testifies to this reality is the protests against vaccinations in response to the global pandemic of 2020.

Protestors Against the Vaccines

Protestors who argue against vaccines are reasoning in line with many classical liberals such as John Locke, Herbert Spencer, and F.A. Hayek who argue for variations of negative liberty.

Put simply, negative liberty is the view that the government should be as limited as possible in the constraints they issue over our lives. According to this negative view of liberty, getting a vaccine may go against individual freedoms.

However, this critique does not address the needed cost-benefit analysis of harm that comes along with providing liberties to individuals. In fact, there are good empirical reasons to think that getting a vaccine prevents harm to citizens. Correspondingly, we must constrain liberty in cases that would cause harm.

John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle

This view of preventing harm whilst providing liberties was originally popularized with John Stuart Mill’s “Harm Principle” which states that it is just to act against an individual’s will if it is “to prevent harm to others.”



Jakub Ferencik

Author of “Up in the Air” & “Beyond Reason” available on AMAZON | MA McGill Uni | Research assistant for EUROPEUM Prague | 700+ blog posts with 1+ mil. views