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Am J Disaster Med. 2010 Mar-Apr;5(2):107-12.

Federal and state public health authority and mandatory vaccination: is Jacobson v Massachusetts still valid?

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Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York, USA.


Novel H1N1 influenza virus infected more than 43,000 people, killed 353 and spread to more than 122 countries within a few months. The World Health Organization declared a stage 6 worldwide pandemic. Healthcare workers and hospitals prepared for the worst. Federal and State regulations provided the legal framework to allow for the preparation and planning for a pandemic. One State had mandated both seasonal and Novel H1N1 vaccination of all healthcare workers in an effort to reduce transmission of influenza in healthcare facilities. The US Supreme Court decided in 1905 that the police power of the State permitted a State Department of Health the leeway to mandate vaccination in the face of a contagious disease. Law suits were filed, and a temporary injunction barring mandatory vaccination was entered by the court. While awaiting a court hearing, the mandatory vaccination regulation was rescinded because of the shortage of both seasonal and H1N1 vaccine. Based on the current state of the pandemic and the shortage of vaccination, it is possible that the US Supreme Court would uphold mandatory vaccination in a pandemic.

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