The U.S. Has A Long Precedent For Vaccine Mandates : NPR
The U.S. Has A Long Precedent For Vaccine Mandates
ASMA KHALID, HOST:
States, cities, universities and even individual employers across the country are considering vaccine mandates in an attempt to drive up vaccination rates and protect people from contracting COVID. But the very mention of a mandate is prompting protests. Some people argue it would be a violation of their civil liberties, although our next guest says history may not be on their side. Lawrence Gostin is a professor of global health law at Georgetown University. He joins us now. Welcome, Professor Gostin.
LAWRENCE GOSTIN: Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate being with you.
KHALID: I gather there's two centuries of legal precedent on whether states are allowed to mandate vaccines. I used to actually live in Massachusetts, and I recall hearing quite a bit about this case from the early 1900s that went all the way up to the Supreme Court. Wasn't it about this very issue?
GOSTIN: It was. And, you know, the first vaccine mandate law was enacted in the United States in 1809 for smallpox. But the Supreme Court in 1905 in a very famous case called Jacobson v. Massachusetts upheld a Cambridge City law, which required smallpox vaccination. That was something where the Supreme Court said that we don't have a right to place other people at risk. And by 1922, in another case, Justice Brandeis, writing for unanimous court, upheld childhood school mandates, calling it settled law.
KHALID: Just this month, the Supreme Court, in fact, declined to take up a case that was challenging a vaccine mandate at Indiana University. Do you interpret this as being a sign that the courts are willing to stand by other mandates?
GOSTIN: I think the courts will absolutely support and uphold vaccine mandates, particularly in the private sector, and they also will when states and cities require vaccines. But I should say that it's a misconception that President Biden has the power to have a nationwide vaccine mandate. Traditionally, vaccine mandates have been imposed by cities and states.
KHALID: Meaning, he does not have the authority to require every citizen of the United States to be vaccinated, or that just historically it's been done at a state and city level?
GOSTIN: I think both. States and cities have the power to regulate public health even before the Constitution was ratified. And the federal government has no power to reach into a state and require all the citizens of that state or the entire country to be vaccinated.............................