Japan’s ministry of health is taking a sensible, ethical approach to Covid vaccines. They recently labeled the vaccines with a warning about myocarditis and other risks. They also reaffirmed their commitment to adverse event reporting to document potential side-effects.
Japan’s ministry of health states: “Although we encourage all citizens to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, it is not compulsory or mandatory. Vaccination will be given only with the consent of the person to be vaccinated after the information provided.”
Furthermore, they state: “Please get vaccinated of your own decision, understanding both the effectiveness in preventing infectious diseases and the risk of side effects. No vaccination will be given without consent.”
Finally, they clearly state: “Please do not force anyone in your workplace or those who around you to be vaccinated, and do not discriminate against those who have not been vaccinated.”
They also link to a “Human Rights Advice” page that includes instructions for handling any complaints if individuals face vaccine discrimination at work.
Other nations would do well to follow Japan’s lead with this balanced and ethical approach.
This policy appropriately places the responsibility for this healthcare decision with the individual or family.
We can contrast this with the vaccine mandate approach adopted in many other Western nations. The United States provides a case study in the anatomy of medical coercion exercised by a faceless bureaucratic network.
A bureaucracy is an institution that exercises enormous power over you but with no locus of responsibility. This leads to the familiar frustration, often encountered on a small scale at the local DMV, that you can go round in bureaucratic circles trying to troubleshoot problems or rectify unfair practices. No actual person seems to be able to help you get to the bottom of things—even if a well-meaning person sincerely wants to assist you.
Here’s how this dynamic is playing out with coercive vaccine mandates in the United States. The CDC makes vaccine recommendations. But the ethically crucial distinction between a recommendation and mandate immediately collapses when institutions (e.g., a government agency, a business, employer, university, or school) require you to be vaccinated based on the CDC recommendation.