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Should the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine be mandatory for nurses? An ethical debate

28 January 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 2


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the UK, as well as many other countries around the world, affecting all aspects of society. Nurses and other health and care professionals are a group particularly exposed to the virus through their work. Evidence suggests that vaccines form the most promising strategy for fighting this pandemic. Should vaccination against be mandatory for nurses and other health professionals? This article explores this question using an ethical framework.

This article explores the ethical question of whether it should be mandatory for nurses and other health professionals and social care workers to receive the vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and why this is a nursing issue. The term healthcare worker is used throughout to mean anyone who has close contact with patients, be they nurses, doctors, other health professionals, staff such as porters, administrative and catering workers in hospital, health and care staff who work in the community, and all those who work in care homes. The ethical debate will be constructed using the framework provided by Beauchamp and Childress (2009). The article aims to reach a conclusion on whether mandatory vaccination is ethical, and should be implemented in all healthcare settings.

COVID-19 is now at the forefront of everyday life in the UK, and practices such as social distancing, support bubbles, shielding and wearing face masks have become the norm. The pandemic has severely impacted many aspects of society such as health care, social care, education, hospitality, retail, leisure and tourism, not just within the UK, but worldwide. UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has stated that the country will face a significant recession as a result of COVID-19 (BBC News, 2020a) and UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned that SARS-CoV-2 is the biggest challenge for the world since the Second World War (BBC News, 2020b).

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