Alabama political science experts: COVID vaccine mandate is constitutional

Vaccine Mandate

By WVUA 23 News Reporter Michaela Redmond

The University of Alabama’s Department of Political Science hosted a discussion on President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan Friday, Sept. 17.

Biden’s plan is pushing for two-thirds of Americans to be fully vaccinated and includes the requirement that all employers with more than 100 employees must require vaccination proof or weekly COVID-19 tests.

In addition, all staff at hospitals, home health care and other medical facilities, along with all government and government-contracted employees must be vaccinated.

Associate Professor of Political Science Allen Linken said the mandate is about doing what’s reasonable.

“Think about throwing a net into a river and trying to catch a specific kind of fish,” Linken said. “You may get seaweed, you may get fish, you may get a different type of fish, you may get a clam and you could get a diver who’s stuck in the water. If you catch the fish you are looking for, it’s not irrational and it’s not unreasonable.”

Alabama is among several Republican-led states rejecting the proposed mandate, Linken said.

Associate Professor of Political Science Joseph Smith said public safety outweighs any protections granted in the constitution.

“There is no broad constitutional right to avoid vaccination against the threat to public health,” Smith said, citing the 1905 case Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which ruled that the U.S. Constitution did not allow for personal exemptions from receiving a vaccine in the interest of public safety.

The case at the time was debating a vaccine for smallpox, a disease that has largely been eradicated because of widespread vaccine requirements.

“Vaccination requirements are and carry out governmental police powers, the power to preserve the public health and welfare,” Smith said.

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