Mandatory Vaccination: An Unqualified Defense

Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2015-08

General Subseries Research Paper No. 2015-02

Posted: 17 Mar 2015 Last revised: 9 Jul 2016

Date Written: January 1, 2016


The 2015 Disneyland outbreak in the US unequivocally brought to light what had been brewing below the surface for a while: a slow but steady decline in vaccination rates resulting in a rising number of outbreaks of measles. This can be traced back to an increasing public questioning of vaccines by an emerging anti-vaccination movement. This paper argues that, in the face of diminishing vaccination rates, childhood vaccinations should not be seen as part of the domain of parental choice but, instead, as a nonnegotiable legal obligation. The first part of the paper formulates and defends two arguments in favor of unqualified mandatory childhood vaccination laws. First, government should not permit parents to put their children at avoidable risks of death and suffering; second, government should guard the common good of herd immunity to protect vulnerable persons. The second part rejects legal and pragmatic objections against such mandatory vaccination laws.

This paper is published in the Journal of Applied Philosophy.

Keywords: Disneyland outbreak, herd immunity, measles, anti-vaxxers

JEL Classification: K4, K14, I18, K42

Suggested Citation

Pierik, Roland, Mandatory Vaccination: An Unqualified Defense (January 1, 2016). Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2015-08, General Subseries Research Paper No. 2015-02, Available at SSRN: or

Roland Pierik (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Oudemanhuispoort 4-6
Amsterdam, 1012 CN


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