Is the Government Going to ‘Force a Coronavirus Vaccine on Everyone?’

No.

The headline of a viral article from Before It’s News claims that “The Government Has Released Their Initial Plans To Force a Vaccine on EVERYONE.” The article was first shared on Facebook on September 16, but has received increased shares and views since Friday, with 77.8 million of its 77.9 million views on Facebook coming since last Friday. 

The article claims that “If you decide you don’t want [the vaccine], don’t worry, the military will help convince you,” and states: “We have warned that the DoD is about to become the enemy of the public. Instead of committing terrorism abroad, they will be going [sic] that here. Prepare yourself.” The article also claims that the vaccine is “toxic” without offering any evidence. All possible vaccines go through multiple phases of human testing to ensure safety and no coronavirus vaccine has finished all the phases yet.

The article states that the basis for its claims of mandatory vaccination is reporting from Fox News and the Associated Press about a CDC vaccination playbook and report to Congress. However, at no point in the linked Fox News article is it suggested that the vaccine will be made mandatory. (The Fox News article mentions reporting by the Associated Press, presumably what the Before It’s News article is referring to, but no AP articles are linked to or specifically referred to in the Before It’s News piece.) The CDC playbook also lacks supporting evidence for claims of the government “forcing” a vaccine on the American public, and instead outlines things like coordinating vaccine distribution between state and local governments, identifying critical populations at the highest risk of catching the virus, and phasing allocations of the vaccine due to initial supply limitations.

 The only mention of the military comes as an example of “Populations served.” The Department of Defense is involved in the government’s plan for development and distribution of a vaccine thanks to its “vast logistical experience” and Trump has publicly stated he plans to use the military to distribute the vaccine. However, there’s no indication in any public materials to support the Before It’s News’ claim that the DoD or the military will be involved in “convincing” hesitant Americans to accept the vaccine.

What’s more, while it may offer incentives, the federal government cannot mandate a vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has said that mandatory coronavirus vaccinations would be “unenforceable and not appropriate,” a stance that legal scholars agree with. Lawrence O. Gostin, director of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, told The Dispatch Fact Check that claims that the federal government is going to force the coronavirus vaccine on the public are “without foundation.”

“Firstly, the federal government has no power to mandate any vaccine for any reason,” said Gostin. “States do have the power to mandate vaccines but there is only one state that has mandated a vaccine for adults. That state is Massachusetts that recently adopted a mandate for influenza vaccines.”

Gostin said that he isn’t aware of any state considering a COVID vaccine mandate and that the CDC “does not have plans to recommend that states create a mandate.” He says that while states could mandate a vaccine, it’s unlikely they will do so because of the strong likelihood of backlash. “Thus, the CDC and most states will seek to increase vaccine coverage through vaccine literacy campaigns and expanded access venues such as in pharmacies,” said Gostin.

While some literal “convincing” may take place through literacy campaigns, there’s no evidence to support the Before It’s News article in its suggestion that the military will act as an enforcer nor is there any evidence to support the claim that the federal government’s released plans show it will “Force a Vaccine on EVERYONE.”

If you have a claim you would like to see us fact check, please send us an email at factcheck@thedispatch.com. If you would like to suggest a correction to this piece or any other Dispatch article, please email corrections@thedispatch.com.