February 28, 2024

Great debate has risen all throughout the country as COVID-19 vaccine mandates are beginning to be enforced. Many people argue that vaccine mandates are needed to control the COVID-19 pandemic, while others argue that forcing vaccines is a violation of American constitutional freedom.

Vaccine mandates are nothing new in this country and have occurred throughout the entirety of American history. One of the first instances of a vaccine mandate in this country was during the Revolutionary War in 1777, only a year after the Declaration of Independence was signed. According to Oxford historians, George Washington mandated that all of his Revolutionary War soldiers be inoculated against smallpox. Although a smallpox vaccine was not created until 1798, it was common practice to infect someone with a less serious form of smallpox to create immunity. In 1809, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law mandating that the general public must receive the smallpox vaccine. Many more states followed suit and the last smallpox outbreak in the U.S. reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was in 1947.

One of the biggest issues brought up in current American vaccine debates is requiring school children to be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, mandating vaccines for school enrollment is also not a new idea. 

In 1827, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law requiring schoolchildren to be vaccinated. The law went all the way up to the Supreme Court and the mandate was upheld in Jacobson v. Massachusetts in 1905. Less than 20 years later, the Supreme Court decided in Zucht v. King that students who were not vaccinated for smallpox were legally able to be excluded from public schools and other places of education. These landmark cases set precedent for school vaccine mandates, and by 1980 all 50 states began requiring school children to be vaccinated.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be required for enrollment to schools following approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Oct. 1. Requiring children to receive vaccines for school enrollment is nothing new. Currently, the state of California already requires five vaccines for children in kindergarten through 12th grade: Polio, DTaP/Tdap, MMR, Hep B and Varicella.

According to the CDC, smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps and rubella have all been nearly eradicated by vaccines. COVID-19 is another easily spread virus that can be nearly eradicated by vaccines and their mandates. 

The virus has already taken more than 738,000 American lives and vaccine mandates like ones made all throughout American history are essential in saving lives.

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