Can Louisiana or the Feds Mandate the COVID Vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine has officially been approved and distribution has started. But, even though we're finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, there's still a lot of questions related to the vaccine. When will enough people be vaccinated for life to get back to normal? Are there any side effects? And, one question I've seen pop up numerous times in recent days, can the Government make the vaccine mandatory.
The short answer about whether or not the Government can mandate the vaccine: yes, yes they can. However, the move is unlikely to happen. On the state level, the Supreme Court ruled in 1905 that any state has the right to enact “reasonable regulations established by legislature to protect public health and safety.” This ruling was made in relations to a small pox outbreak/vaccine and the court basically said any measures taken to stop such an outbreak is not a violation of the 14th amendment because liberty could not exist if the population was dying from an infectious disease.
However, even though the precedent exists, it is unlikely any state would use such a power in this instance. Between a population that is already a bit nervous about the vaccine and high tensions related to government mandates, it would more than likely cause more headaches than it's worth as 2/3rds of the population will likely get the vaccine with or without a mandate. Many states, Louisiana included, have already come out and said that they will not mandate the vaccine.
The Feds in comparison to the State, would have a harder time enacting a vaccine mandate. The constitution states that the right to govern public health lies with the state and there's no major legal precedent that would support a national mandate. It's plausible that Congress could use a commerce clause about interstate travel and withhold federal funding for roads...but that move is highly unlikely.
Private business on the other hand could fire you for not getting the vaccine. Other industries could also require you to be vaccinated before you can use their services. But again, while some companies will take this approach, it is unlikely to be widespread. The business world as a whole, just like everyone else, has been deeply effected by the pandemic and it is not in their best interest to fire good employees or lose more business by enacting a mandatory vaccine policy.