Compulsory Vaccination and the Collective Good: Going Beyond a Civic Duty?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In 1996, Margaret Brazier and John Harris published a paper, Public Health and Private Lives, which considered the legal and moral dilemmas surrounding the control of infectious disease posed for society. In particular, they considered just how far society should enforce an obligation not to expose others to infection and argued that such obligations should be driven by a strong moral duty to protect others from harm. Indeed, they suggested that, in principle, where reckless transmission of disease occurred, it should be seen as part of a wider interpretation of reckless endangerment of others' safety. In the years following the publication of the paper, the tensions inherent within public health law discourse between the rights of individuals and the broader rights of the public, has received relatively little attention. Yet arguably, a number of debates have emerged over this time which have provoked further discussion within wider policy circles. One such debate centres on the increasingly significant global threat posed by reduced levels of immunisation against vaccine-preventable disease, leading to new outbreaks of measles becoming more commonplace. This chapter considers this very threat and asks whether the adoption of a compulsory vaccination programme in the United Kingdom (UK) could ever be morally justified; and if it could, whether it should translate into a legal obligation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPioneering Healthcare – Celebrating the Work of Margaret Brazier
EditorsCatherine Stanton, Sarah Devaney, Anne-Maree Farrell, Alexandra Mullock
Place of PublicationOxford
ISBN (Print)9781138861091
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


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