The Legality of Compulsory Vaccination

Can governments require people to get vaccinated?

There are now vaccinations available against COVID. However, a large number of people – particularly in the West – have said that they refuse to get vaccinated. There are various reasons given for this refusal, including legitimate medical and religious ones, but a significant number of ‘anti-vaxxers’ believe that the virus was created artificially in a laboratory and then released to unleash a ‘plandemic’ or, in other words, a planned pandemic.

In view of the fact that the success of any vaccine depends largely on the extent of the take-up, what can governments do in the face of such resistance?

(Courtesy of

In the UK, the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 gives the government power to take appropriate measures to limit and control the outbreak of an infection. It was under this legislation that Boris Johnson issued the ‘stay at home’ order in March.

The Act states explicitly, however, that it cannot require anybody to undergo medical treatment, including vaccination. Any attempt by the UK government to impose vaccination on citizens would therefore probably be illegal.

Such a move would in any case be unlikely; with the UK history of liberalism in mind, Johnson recently said that:

“There will be no compulsory vaccination. That’s not the way we do things in this country”

In Italy, there has been much debate about the constitutionality of imposing vaccines on people. The Veneto region recently decided to test the waters by asking the Country’s Constitutional Court to review the legality of the vaccination of children. The Court stated that such procedures were not unconstitutional.

Spain has been much affected by COVID. Nevertheless, resistance to vaccination is widespread. It would appear that Spain would be acting within its constitution if it made vaccination mandatory.

Organic Law 3/86 provides that:

Under a state of alert, the Minister of Public Health and Consumer Affairs may temporarily order the restriction of the movement of people or motor vehicles; search and seizure procedures; the occupation of facilities or industries (but not private dwellings); the limited consumption or use of necessary food items; and any other measure to fight infectious diseases, protect water and the environment, and protect against forest fires.

France and Germany have both said that they will not make vaccination mandatory.

Can employers require employees to get vaccinated?

In the UK, employers have quite wide-ranging scope for imposing rules in the workplace and the general consensus is that they could legally require employees to get vaccinated. However, it seems likely that they would – like national governments – prefer to opt for a policy of persuasion rather than compulsion. Clearly, employers would wish to avoid any claims of discrimination or unfair dismissal, although they would have the defence that they are under an obligation to protect all their staff under Health and Safety law.

Employees who refused to be vaccinated, however, might be required to waive their right to pursue a health and safety-based claim against their employer if they went down with the disease. They might also have to agree to work under certain restrictions to limit the risk of contracting or passing on the disease.

Language focus

Look back at the underlined words abovetake-up, outbreak and went down. They all come from phrasal verbs (take up, break out and go down). Can you infer their meaning from the context?

A phrasal verb is made up of a main verb together with one or more particles (usually prepositions). Typically, the meaning is not clear from the meanings of the individual words themselves. Furthermore, the same phrasal verb can often have more than one meaning. The verb go off, for example, can mean:

  1. to stop liking something or someone – e.g. I’ve really gone off him since he made partner.
  2. to explode – e.g. The bomb went off at exactly 08.58, killing one person
  3. to decompose and become unfit for consumption – e.g. The milk went off because of the power cut.

As you can see from the examples above, phrasal verbs can deliver very specific meaning with great economy. It’s therefore a good idea to learn and use them, especially in your spoken English (they tend to be more informal than ‘normal’ verbs). Native speakers use them all the time.

The problem is that there are many thousands of them! Treat them as you would any other English vocabulary; study them as you come across them, and don’t try to memorise too many at once. (Come across is another phrasal verb – can you infer it’s meaning from the context?)

Combine the main verb in Section A with a particle (or particles) in Section B and then match your combination with the definitions in Section C.

Section A –   crack    pencil     abide    carry    draw    sum    strike    pass    come

Section B –    across    down    by    in    off x 2     out x 2     up x 3    on x 2

Section C – 

1. To sell goods by misleading people into believing the goods are those of another person or company

2. The removal by a judge of a case before the court

3. To consider competing arguments carefully before reaching a decision

4. To obey a law, a rule, the terms of an agreement etc.

5. To execute a task, threat or instruction

6. To make a provisional arrangement with or for someone

7. To give an impression OR to meet unexpectedly

8. To make someone stop liking something OR to delay

9. To prepare and write something such as a contract

10. To start dealing with something much more strictly

11. To employ someone OR to accept a task or responsibility

12. To give a summary of something e.g. the evidence in a case

Now use the phrasal verbs above to complete the sentences. Use a ‘main’ verb in the longer space and a particle in the shorter one. Two spaces have been filled for you.

1. The prosecution barrister _______________ _______ as very condescending and so put_off some members of the jury.

2.  Mr Justice Cresswell ________________ _____ the case on the grounds that it was not in the public interest to proceed.

3.  It’s important to ______________ ______ the pros and cons when deciding whether or not to bring legal proceedings.

4.In her ______________ ____, Ms Justice Burns directed the jury to consider whether the defendant had acted intentionally

5. The associate was asked to work over the weekend in order to _______________ ____ the contract in time for the Monday morning meeting.

6. By subscribing to LawBlog, you agree to ________________ ____ the terms and conditions …

7. The Justice Secretary has ordered the courts to _______________ ______ ______ anti-social behaviour by handing down stiffer sentences to offenders.

8.  The solicitor _____________ _____ her client’s instructions to the T.

9. Copyright was originally invented so that nobody could _______________ ______ something as their own work if it was created by somebody else.

10. “I can ____________ you _____ for Monday at 3.00 pm, how would that suit you?”

11. We’re expanding rapidly so we’re going to have to _______________ ____ some more newly-qualified lawyers.


And now some seasonal jokes –

1. Did you hear about the drop in production at Santa’s workshop? Many of his workers had to elf isolate.

2.  Why didn’t Mary and Joseph make it to Bethlehem? All Virgin flights were cancelled.

3. Why are Santa’s reindeer allowed to travel on Christmas Eve? They have herd immunity.

4. Why did the pirates have to go into lockdown? Because the ‘Arrrr!’ rate had risen.

5. Why couldn’t Mary and Joseph join their work conference call? Because there was no Zoom at the inn.

6. What do the Trumps do for Christmas dinner? They put on a super spread.





Pin It on Pinterest

Share This