Does public safety justify mandatory vaccination?

Over 100 years ago, in the early 1900s the United States Supreme Court was faced with the issue of “police power” or the power of state government to protect public health and the Constitution’s protection of personal liberty. In the United States Supreme Court case of Jacobson v Massachusetts 197 US 11 (1905), the Supreme Court upheld the Cambridge Massachusetts Board of Health authority to require vaccination of healthy adults against smallpox due to the epidemic which could compromise the community. The plaintiff, Henning Jacobson, had refused the vaccination and was fined $5.00.

Unlike today, where chronic diseases account for most deaths, at that time, infectious disease was the leading cause of death and states administered public health initiatives. The FDA did not even exist at that time. Yet today, globalization, has essentially required immunizations from infectious diseases. COVID-19 is an example of a pandemic perhaps reminiscent of earlier time periods in history.

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