Volume 35

Vaccine Hesitancy and Legal Ethics

by Noelle N. Wyman & Sam Heavenrich

Vaccine hesitancy remains an impediment to America’s successful emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic. This Article analyzes the role that legal ethics can play in countering hesitancy. Though the Rules of Professional Conduct do not obligate lawyers to be vaccinated, several prohibit lawyers from knowingly spreading disinformation about the importance, safety, and effectiveness of vaccines. As the recent fallout from the 2020 post-election litigation shows, however, professional discipline for spreading disinformation is possible but rare. Accordingly, we propose alternative avenues for aligning legal ethics with public health: requiring vaccine passports for court appearances, incorporating public health concerns into the Comments accompanying the Rules, and countering vaccine disinformation through continuing legal education.

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