Eligible people who refuse COVID vaccine can be fined

by DailyHealthPost Editorial

As drugmakers ramp up vaccine production in order to reach herd immunity by end of this Summer, several legal questions are emerging: could the government make it mandatory for people to get it? Could people who refuse to get vaccinated be fined or worse lose their jobs? Recently, the regional government of Galicia in northwestern Spain has announced that the Covid-19 vaccine will be compulsory for all its 2.7 million inhabitants.

The issue has been brought up by a reform of the Galician Health Law, which manages sanctions for different public health infractions. The new update, which was approved by the regional government states that “unjustified” refusal of the vaccine by anyone who’s eligible for it will viewed as a “minor offense,” resulting in a fine of €1,000 to €3,000.

In cases where “there is a very serious risk or damage to the health of the population,” the refusal of the vaccine will be treated as a serious offense and the penalty will range from €3,000 to €60,000. The legislation also has a clause for “very serious offences,” which can lead to a fine of up to €600,000. This would apply for situations such as a health professional skipping quarantine.


Now, this does not mean that vaccination is mandatory across the whole country. Spain’s Health Ministry insists that the coronavirus vaccine would only be voluntary, although it is keeping track of those who have refused it.

“Galicia is trying to create a regulatory framework that allows them to adopt a forced vaccine if they consider it appropriate,” says Íñigo de Miguel, a researcher at the University of the Basque Country and member of the Spanish Association of Health Law.

In other words, such drastic measures would only come into effect if the medical necessity requires it. This is a case where public health outweighs the individual rights and liberties at stake.

Could The Same Happen in The U.S.?

In theory, the short answer is yes. The U.S. could compel vaccinations in more or less intrusive ways. For example, States could limit access to schools, services or jobs for people who don’t get vaccinated. States could also issue a fine or lock up individuals in jail.

But such drastic measures are unlikely to happen. To date, authorities in the United States have never attempted to jail people for refusing to vaccinate.

This isn’t the first time we hear about countries adopting such aggressive tactics. In 2019, countries around the world adopted the following to fight against measles outbreaks:

  • In Germany, lawmakers passed a law stating that parents need to prove they’ve vaccinated their kids against measles — or risk fines up to €2,500. Unvaccinated children also risk losing their places in school.
  • Italy’s parliament passed a law that makes 10 childhood vaccinations mandatory for kids up to age 16, and requires parents to prove their children are immunized before entering school or else face a €500 noncompliance fine. And kids who aren’t vaccinated are being told not to come to school.
  • In France, the health ministry made 11 vaccines — up from the current three (diphtheria, tetanus, and polio) — mandatory for children, though there’s no talk of a fine yet.
  • New South Wales, Australia, passed “no jab, no play” legislation in September 2017: The law bans unvaccinated kids from preschool and day care and fine the directors of schools that admit un-immunized children $5,500 Australian dollars.
  • The law in New South Wales is modeled on similarly stringent laws in other Australian states, and across the country, parents with children who aren’t immunized aren’t eligible for child care benefits.
  • In the U.S., New York — where a large measles outbreak raged on for nearly a year — the government imposed a fine of up to $1,000 on parents who didn’t vaccinate their children.

It’s About Public Safety

There will always be people in the world who can’t get vaccinated due to allergies or other medical conditions. To protect the vulnerable, herd immunity is crucial. Without it, outbreaks will keep occurring and lead to more deaths.

COVID-19 has already taken the lives of 500,000 Americans. If forgoing a few liberties can save the masses and protect future generations, should vaccines truly become mandatory?

Since, COVID vaccines have been proven to work, it’s understandable why lawmakers have their hands full with trying to figure a way to protect lives without taking away certain rights from citizens.

At the end of the day, the mandatory nature of vaccines and its constitutionality can always be discussed, since it clearly affects fundamental rights. But the lives that could be saved and the ones that have been lost, shouldn’t be up to debate.