Vaccines (July 23, 2021)
Vaccinations are traditionally used to prevent the devastating effects of those infectious diseases that defeat the immune system, the natural protection against invading foreign pathogens. Vaccines mimick the infection in a controlled way, provoke a protective immune response against the natural infection. The first immunization was used against smallpox over 200 years ago. Effective and safe vaccines are used word wide against a wide variety of infections: diphteria, tetatus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, hepatitis, rotavirus, influenza and many others. Some of the childhood vaccines are mandated in the US. Covid-19, the coronavirus causing the pandemic is new to humans, several approaches were tried word wide to develop a safe and effective vaccine. All Covid vaccines use part of the virus designed to induce a protective immune response but cannot cause infection. In the US, currently three vaccines are approved, two of them (the Pfizer and Moderna) use a messenger RNA technology as a direct approach to induce antibody production and the Jansen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine uses as adenovirus vector.
One of the difficult legal question is whether Covid vaccines can be mandated nationwide as many childhood vaccines are. The Supreme Court’s decision Jacobson v. Massachusetts 197 US 11 (1905) has been the precedent used for the state’s right to mandate vaccinations over an individual’s right to refuse. All currently available COVID-19 vaccines are distributed under a Federal Drug Administration’s “emergency use authorization” power. The FDA may authorize unapproved medical products for use on an emergency basis to prevent life-threatening conditions caused by biological threats, provided certain criteria are met and there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives. (12 U.S.C., § 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(e).) One of these criteria is that individuals must be informed that they may refuse a vaccine made available under an emergency use authorization. (21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(e)(1)(A)(ii)(III).)
Certain medical conditions and sincere religious objections provide exceptions from mandatory vaccination. The medical conditions are notable for abnormalities of the immune system and diseases that can cause immunosuppression thus interfering with the immune response and may lead to complications. It is sufficient that a medical doctor indicate their patient is exempt.