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Mandating COVID-19 Vaccines

JAMA. 2021;325(6):532-533. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.26553

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) vaccines hold promise to control the pandemic and help restore normal social and economic life. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for 2 messenger RNA vaccines and will likely issue full biologics licenses in the coming months. Anticipating vaccine scarcity, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP) published guidance on vaccine priorities.

Data for the vaccines granted an EUA reportedly demonstrate 95% efficacy, but even highly effective vaccines cannot curb the pandemic without high population coverage and maintenance of other mitigation strategies. Recent data from 1676 adults surveyed November 30 to December 8, 2020, found that when a COVID-19 vaccine is approved and widely available: 34% would get it as soon as possible; 39% would wait; 9% would only get it if required for work or school; 15% would definitely not get it. Black persons, at high risk of infection and hospitalization, are less likely to report vaccine intent with only 20% reporting they would get the vaccine soon and 52% intending to wait.1 Intent to vaccinate has changed substantially over time and is likely to continue to evolve. In this Viewpoint, we examine whether vaccine mandates would be lawful and ethical and whether they could boost vaccine uptake.

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