The Ethical Significance of Post-Vaccination COVID-19 Transmission Dynamics

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 20 (1):21-29 (2022)
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The potential for vaccines to prevent the spread of infectious diseases is crucial for vaccination policy and ethics. In this paper, I discuss recent evidence that the current COVID-19 vaccines have only a modest and short-lived effect on reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission and argue that this has at least four important ethical implications. First, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 should be seen primarily as a self-protective choice for individuals. Second, moral condemnation of unvaccinated people for causing direct harm to others is unjustified. Third, the case for a harm-based moral obligation to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is weak. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, coercive COVID-19 vaccination policies (e.g., measures that exclude unvaccinated people from society) cannot be directly justified by the harm principle.

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