Refusing the COVID-19 vaccine: What’s wrong with that?

Philosophical Psychology 36 (6):1102-1124 (2023)
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COVID-19 vaccine refusal seems like a paradigm case of irrationality. Vaccines are supposed to be the best way to get us out of the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet many people believe that they should not be vaccinated even though they are dissatisfied with the current situation. In this paper, we analyze COVID-19 vaccine refusal with the tools of contemporary philosophical theories of responsibility and rationality. The main outcome of this analysis is that many vaccine-refusers are responsible for the belief that they should not be vaccinated and epistemically rational in holding it. This is an important result because it provides insights into the legitimacy of certain public health policies. In particular, this result shows that a public health policy that would abandon the project of convincing certain vaccine-refusers with reasons – e.g., by simply making vaccination compulsory – is prima facie illegitimate.

Author Profiles

Sebastian Schmidt
University of Zürich
Anne Meylan
University of Zürich


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