The Ethics Of The Government’s Planned Door-To-Door Vaccination Campaign [Updated]

President Biden has announced that there will be a door-to-door campaign designed to inform people in less-vaccinated sections of the country to encourage getting the shots and to address concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Many Republican, conservatives and civil libertarians fell the plan is an abuse of power. “How about don’t knock on my door. You’re not my parents. You’re the government. Make the vaccine available, and let people be free to choose. Why is that concept so hard for the left?” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) tweeted. “The government now wants to go door-to-door to convince you to get an ‘optional’ vaccine,” Rep. Lauren Boebert, (R-Colo)., snarked. Some reactions were a bit more hysterical, such as this from GOP Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene:

“Biden pushing a vaccine that is NOT FDA approved shows covid is a political tool used to control people. People have a choice, they don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations. You can’t force people to be part of the human experiment.”

But you know…Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Is a representative of the Federal Government coming to your home to try to get you to do something you have chosen not to do or may not want to do an abuse of power? It might be. I have ruled it unethical for uniformed police officers to come to homes seeking contributions to police charities, and indeed this practice has largely been stopped because it was viewed as inherently coercive. A government representative coming to your home to urge you to do anything, from paying taxes to brushing your teeth, may be stressful and feel like the heavy hand of Big Brothers. Moreover, such a visit strongly suggests “We are watching you!”

My guess is that the national public health goal of having as many Americans vaccinated as possible would be seen by most courts as a sufficient justification for this minimal incursion on public privacy, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more court rule that the government has no business coming to you home to metaphorically twist your arm.

The Ethics Alarms verdict is that door-to-door visits are ethically defensible if…

  • Each home targeted for such a visits gets advance notice of at least 72 hours, and an opportunity to opt out.
  • The government representative begins every visit by handing out a document and reciting it’s contents, which should be something like a Miranda Warning:

Hello, my name is XXXXXXXXXXXXXX, and I am representing the Federal Government in a national effort to encourage the public to be fully vaccinated against the Wuhan virus. You have no obligation to listen to me, invite me into your home, take or read the materials I have for you or to get vaccinated. If you prefer, I will leave immediately. However, I would be grateful if you would allow me to explain why it is important for you and members of your family to get vaccinated, and to answer any questions you might have. If you decline this visit, there will be no penalties or consequences, nor will your decision be noted on any government records.

Update: Upon thinking some more about this, I would want to see this added:

“Furthermore. no benefits or advantages will accrue to any of your neighbors who do not decline to speak with me, allow me into their homes, or accept my materials.”

Absent such warning, any visit by a government employee (or volunteer) is potentially coercive and an abuse of government power.

20 thoughts on “The Ethics Of The Government’s Planned Door-To-Door Vaccination Campaign [Updated]

  1. I can only imagine how people working from home or who sleep during the day will feel about an unexpected and potentially unwanted solicitation being pitched by a government representative.

  2. So The feds are going to hire an army of supporters who will go around collecting medical data. What will happen when these people visit all the homes on the list? I bet the list will expand to include those in areas of high vaccination rates. Once that is complete (if ever) the new army will be tasked with giving out other propaganda the government wants to distribute.
    Instead of hiring a bunch of otherwise unemployable people why not simply ask existing personnel such as teachers, professors or social service workers deliver the message.
    I for one think adding probably ten thousand new federal employees to proselytize about the benefits of the vaccine is unethical when you are overseeing an economy that you helped accelerate unsustainable debt loads.

  3. In my opinion; verbal/written warning or not, a person representing the government of the United States of America showing at my door to try to convince me of anything to do with my own medical decisions is pure coercive and an abuse of government power.

    They should just do a blanket mailing to every mailing address in these areas with the information they want to share, I’m sure that will be cheaper than putting people on the streets knocking on doors. The government has absolutely no business whatsoever knowing who has or who hasn’t gotten the vaccine, it’s none of their damn business.

    If they come knocking on my door I’ll slam the door in their face without a word and I’ve already gotten the vaccine.

    • Steve wrote, “If they come knocking on my door I’ll slam the door in their face without a word…”

      If they come to my house they’ll get the same treatment as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the occassional sales person going door to door. After the first few words out of their mouth, I say, not interested and the door closes (usually) while they are still finishing their first sentence. That is, if I even open the door – sometimes I just look through the little windows along the side of the door and if it isn’t one of the neighbors or someone we know I mouth, (not interested).

      • I think the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a fine comparison. No need to be rude. Just say you aren’t interested. Except I still need official reassurance and guarantees that no sanctions will result from a rejection.

        • You would BELIEVE them saying there would be NO sanctions from a visit? Why would they tell the truth about THAT when they aren’t even giving people INFORMED CONSENT about these shots????? ugh. this is SICK. I’ll use it as a time to hopefully reach the hearts and humanity of whomever knocks on my door and hopefully reach them so they stop buying into the work of Big Brother.

          • If you don’t trust someone. you don’t trust them. However, a formal declaration to acquire consent is enforceable. They should have to guarantee this. Nobody has to believe the guarantee. An arrested suspect is promised that an attorney will be provided, but the suspect doesn’t have to believe it.

  4. I’m not certain how this is much different than census recording. Other than the census being mandated by the Constitution, there wouldn’t seem to be much difference between Wuhan Virus vaccine information distribution and census collection. People who already got the vaccine are analogous to people who filled out the census form, with people who did not get vaccinated analogous to those who did not yet fill out a census form. Is the boundary between ethical and unethical here the distinction that the census is required by the Constitution and the vaccine not required by any law (as of yet)?

    • Andrew Nelson asked, “Is the boundary between ethical and unethical here the distinction that the census is required by the Constitution and the vaccine not required by any law (as of yet)?”

      The government has absolutely no business whatsoever knowing who has or who hasn’t gotten the vaccine, it’s none of their damn business. The overall numbers are what the CDC needs to know about. This is a personal medical decision regarding what people choose to put inside or not put inside their own bodies and coercion, yes their very presence there for this purpose is coercion, is unethical in my opinion.

      Solution, send the information in the mail and the coercion problem simply goes away. Advertise about it during the evening news broadcasts. Put it on a billboard. Have a plane write it in the sky. Advertise on radio programs during rush hour. Do all these things and accept the fact that there will still be people that choose not to get the vaccine. Make your pandemic related plans according to the actual numbers vaccinated, period.

    • Census data privacy by law is as protected as your tax return information.
      What is the enabling legislation to enforce privacy? There is none. Additionally, Census takers are not suggesting behavioral changes among the households visited. Imagine Census workers suggesting to obese people that they should join a gym or people on public assistance should make changes in their lives to get off public assistance. There is an ocean of difference between collecting data for resource allocation and representative apportionment and serving as a proselyte to advance a government desire.

  5. As a criminal defense attorney, I am wary of any governmental intrusion into the privacy of a home. Possession of marijuana in Virginia (in small amounts) is now legal, but previously I have had and read about cases where governmental officials (usually police officers, but not always) knocked on a door, the door was opened, the official detected the odor of marijuana, and poof–search warrant. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that an official peering into the open door of a residence would spot what he or she thinks is contraband–most likely drug-related– and a search of the residence would follow. Granted, I am viewing this through a very narrow lens, but still, the Fourth Amendment is the Fourth Amendment, and I believe it gives one the freedom and right to remain secure in one’s home.

  6. So the NIH funds the Wuhan lab (how the HELL did that happen? Pretty sure I could find s FAR rule against that one) that creates a virus that the government now wants to tell me what to do (because you know that’s next, and if it’s not, will be soon)?

    I can’t see that being ethical in any way. This is closer to the Tuskegee debacle. In more ways than one.

    At least the census is in the constitution and serves a government interest (representation in/of the states).

    No can do here.

  7. I have gotten to date: a phone call, numerous post cards, and a text message, along with emails from my insurance company and… of course, FB announcements. If people are unaware of vaccines, their purpose, safety, etc… a knock on the door likely will not matter. Actually, it makes me want to dig in my heels to NOT do this. I feel like there’s medical discrimination at play. Never have I ever been convinced to “do the right thing” with lotteries, scholarships for kids, phone calls asking me to schedule an appoiment, a postcard, and now door to door. Umm Fuck you. No. I was considering it. Now “they” can leave me alone or see me in a courtroom. Translation: you would be better off shutting your stupid mouths and letting me work through the information, IN MY OWN TIME. If I die, I die. It’s my choice. You’re vaccinated so what do you care what I do? Or are they saying they don’t work as claimed. Pick one people, you can’t have both. Side note: our history is full of amazing and epic scientific breakthroughs of things that turned out are not safe, that we thought were, and and it ended up killing thousands. Tell you what, Biden, Go back to the lab, (you have a cancer cure so this should be simple! ) create an airborne vaccine, I’m sure nothing could possibly go wrong, and you’d get your wish to have everyone vaccinated for the greater good.
    And not that you care… I haven’t gotten the vaccine because it’s a 120 mile round trip to the nearest site. My husband hasn’t because the flu shot makes him super sick and he doesn’t want to. My daughters won’t because they’re concerned about long term unknown as yet consequences. It has NOTHING to do with politics, well… it does now because they’re being pushy.

  8. I’m not as worried about side effects of vaccines, I dimly remember when they were trying to get people to get the polio shot and a society free of polio and smallpox is important. Flu just has too many variants to have a single vaccine and that it is so hit or miss and softens people up for other bugs becomes fodder for conspiracies. I get far more and far nastier side effects like kidney damage from required medicines and if I were king there would be more attention to that kind of side effect instead of the flu.

    With this proposed door to door, I think it is just a waste of health care funding. Use the 300M on something useful like patching up the mental health damage caused by lockdown or support for mentally disabled who fell even more through the cracks because telehealth doesn’t help some issues and people who had chronic things treatment delayed by how many months now, and are afraid to go out. Door to door is a waste of resources when there are so many things in need of attention.

    • Me too. I was probably only six or seven at the time, but I sure as hell don’t remember any controversy over every single kid getting a polio shot, or MMR or the oral polio vaccine. Who wanted kids to be at risk of getting polio? I don’t see this as any different. Get the shot. It’s no big deal. Life is full of risks. A microscopic number of people will have adverse reactions. So what? Grow up.

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