Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Reader 1

Gabbrielle Johnson

Reader 2

Anna Wenzel

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.


The rise of COVID-19 has dramatically affected the global economy, healthcare systems, and individuals’ daily lives. One of the most controversial attempts to ameliorate the effects of the virus in the United States has been the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations. In this thesis, I propose a novel agent-centered approach to motivating COVID-19 vaccinations. I begin by exploring the origins and evolution of the virus, along with the growing demographic of “vaccine-hesitant” Americans, to contextualize the debate surrounding vaccinations. I then propose two potential action-based response strategies for vaccine motivation: a vaccine mandate and nudges. Concerning a mandate response strategy, I evaluate the ethical limitations of mandatory vaccinations through an “autonomy objection” to paternalism. I then evaluate the potential of mandates being acceptable through their ability to free up autonomy for more valuable pursuits. However, I demonstrate how a systemic view of paternalism would lead to the conclusion that vaccine mandates are objectionable, as they strip autonomy against a history of agency stripping for Black Americans. Finally, I provide a solution to the question of how to address COVID-19 vaccination policy through nudging. I address objections to this strategy by necessitating that nudges towards COVID-19 vaccinations must be related to COVID-19 itself, and not financially motivated. These forms of nudges treat agents as fully rational actors and are thus an ethically favorable way to motivate COVID-19 vaccinations.

Included in

Public Health Commons