Compulsory vaccinations


Sir, – David Robert Grimes article, “Small anti-vaccine cohort can’t hold society hostage” (Opinion, December 6th) begs the question, why does vilifying the confidential medical status of individuals in the public domain seem to now be acceptable?

I think we can all agree that it would feel inherently wrong to read news coverage that might attack patients – currently in intensive care units as a result of factors related to, for example, smoking or obesity – as taking beds from other patients.

Yet, the statistic cited in the article; that 50 per cent of patients in ICUs are unvaccinated, fails to acknowledge that there may be other underlying factors to the patients who are there. Age, diabetes and obesity are frequently cited. Targeted public health messaging to those seriously at risk (vaccinated or unvaccinated) would be much more helpful than creating division by pointing fingers at unvaccinated people.

– Yours, etc,



Dublin 4,

Sir, – In 2013, David Robert Grimes wrote in The Irish Times to support the introduction of same-sex marriage on the grounds that people “have the right to lead their lives in any way they choose” and that we should not “presume to dictate to others” in relation to the issue.

In 2018, he wrote in your newspaper calling for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, on the grounds that society should “not seek to impose their morality upon others”, and that we should “leave that decision to the individual concerned”.

However, in his latest contribution to your newspaper he calls for compulsory vaccination for those who have so far refused to be vaccinated.

Can Dr Grimes please explain to me as a woman why my decision on whether to marry and have children should be left for to me to decide, but in the case of vaccinations, the State should be allowed to dictate to me what I can and cannot do?

It seems that there is none so illiberal as a liberal whose views you do not align with.

– Yours, etc,



Co Roscommon.

Sir, – David Robert Grimes weakens his argument on mandatory vaccination by invoking the England and Wales Vaccination Act of 1853 and a decision of the US Supreme Court in 1905, both of which permitted compulsory vaccinations. Surely the modern Irish legal framework is of more relevance to his proposed course of action?

The right to refuse medical treatment – dismissed by Dr Grimes as a “tired and debunked old canard about liberty” – is enshrined in the Constitution.

In 1996, the former chief justice Susan Denham said this right is “a matter of choice.... not necessarily based on medical considerations. Treatment may be refused for other than medical reasons, or reasons most citizens would regard as rational”.

This right may only be overridden in circumstances where there is a grave and immediate threat to life.

It is against this backdrop which proposals on compulsory vaccinations should be judged, not against laws which were introduced during the early reign of Queen Victoria at a time when notions of individual rights and personal autonomy were in their infancy.

Dr Grimes correctly suggests that medicine should be left to doctors. He should take a double-dose of his own advice, and leave the law to lawyers.

– Yours, etc,


Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Sir, – The government of Singapore gave advance notice in November that from today it will begin charging those “unvaccinated by choice” for any and all medical treatment provided.

Is there any valid reason why we are not doing the same?

– Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.