Ethical issues in immunisation

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Discussions about current and future immunisation programmes raise novel questions about familiar ethical issues. Two sets of ethical issues dominate these discussions. The first is the issue of compulsory immunisation: what should be done about parents who fail to immunise their children? The second is: given competing demands on health care budgets, how should principles of justice in access and distribution inform vaccination programmes? This paper considers these two issues in the light of traditional ethical principles. With respect to the first, we argue that compulsion is justified only in cases in which we know with practical certainty that parental failure to immunise puts their own child or other children at high risk of severe illness. We also argue that the state should compensate those who suffer vaccine-related injury. With respect to the second, we claim that allocating resources according to health care need requires establishing priorities between public health programmes such as immunisation and other treatment programmes.

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Journal Article

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ERA Access