Viral Voices Individual Rights Versus The Public Interest In The Debate Over Mandatory Vaccination A Case Study of California’s Exemption Mandate Senate Bill No. 277

Toles, Aaryn Sophia [Browse]
Senior thesis
113 pages


Benjamin, Ruha [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
This thesis explores the passing of vaccination mandate Senate Bill No. 277 (SB 277), which eliminated the option of philosophical exemption from mandatory school vaccinations in California, as a case study of the ongoing debate regarding vaccination in the United States. Focusing on the relationship between individual rights and policies in the public interest, this thesis assesses whether or not the bill appropriately favors the public interest over individual rights, using the following criteria: that the mandate intervention must present a clear medical benefit; that the benefit of the mandate must be greater than the risk, and that there are no other plausible ways of achieving the goal of the mandate. Using these criteria, I analyze the text of the bill, interviews with key stakeholders, legislative hearings, and media coverage. I argue that the bill’s prioritization of the public interest over individual rights is both appropriate and necessary. Further, the new law has the potential to provide a vital legislative precedent towards to the goal of re-establishing herd immunity against vaccine-preventable diseases. In terms of public policy implications, this thesis reveals that there are valid and enduring concerns expressed by those of the anti-vaccination movement that need to be addressed in order for vaccination policies to be embraced by a wider public and thus have a more significant impact.

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