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 Constantine Pankin

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August 26, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Refusal to take an eventual COVID-19 vaccine could result in fines or even jail time in certain states, a health law expert reminded the public in a recent interview.

“States can compel vaccinations in more or less intrusive ways,” Professor Dov Fox, director of the Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics at the University of San Diego, told ABC 10 in San Diego. “They can limit access to schools or services or jobs if people don’t get vaccinated. They could force them to pay a fine or even lock them up in jail.”

This legal power has not often been exercised in the United States, he explained, but dates back to 1905’s Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which upheld the constitutionality of fining people for refusal to vaccinate against smallpox. Fox noted that possessing the legal power was not the only factor in deciding whether to wield it, however, as it could provoke a similar backlash to the one sparked by mask mandates.

“Religious exemptions are not constitutionally required by the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause,” he added, “provided that the vaccine mandates don’t single out religion; they’re not motivated by a desire to interfere with it.” It remains to be seen whether the U.S. Supreme Court would agree.

Fox’s input comes as various state officials and academic institutions across the country have discussed mandating an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. In Virginia, health commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver recently advocated such a mandate, though Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam is not yet on board.

“Fear of a disease — which we know very little about, relative to other similar diseases — must not lead to knee-jerk reactions regarding public health, nor can it justify supporting the hidden agenda of governmental as well as non-governmental bodies that have apparent conflicts of interest in plans to restrict personal freedoms,” says LifeSiteNews’ ongoing petition against mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, which has gathered more than 850,000 signatures.