WASHINGTON • Dr Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious diseases official, said the government would not make any future Covid-19 vaccine obligatory for the public – though local jurisdictions could make it mandatory for some groups, like children.
“You don’t want to mandate and try and force anyone to take a vaccine. We’ve never done that,” said Dr Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, during a talk organised by George Washington University.
“You can mandate (it) for certain groups of people like health workers, but for the general population, you can’t,” he added, citing the example of the National Institutes of Health, where health workers cannot treat patients without a flu shot.
Hours earlier, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that coronavirus vaccines, once approved, would be mandatory for everyone in his country, barring medical exemptions.
“We need the most extensive and comprehensive response to this to get Australia back to normal,” Mr Morrison said, after announcing the vaccine would be free for all Australians.
But the United States’ decentralised system of government – and anti-vaccine sentiments that have been building for decades – had, in any case, made a programme of mandatory immunisation unlikely.
“It would be unenforceable and not appropriate,” said Dr Fauci.
This, however, does not prevent states from making a vaccine mandatory for children to attend school, as is already the case for certain diseases such as measles, though some are exempt for medical or religious reasons.
At any rate, the administration of President Donald Trump has pre-ordered hundreds of millions of vaccine doses from six companies, and these will be distributed for free.