Raising rates of childhood vaccination: the trade-off between coercion and trust

Bridget Haire, Paul Komesaroff, Rose Leontini, C. Raina MacIntyre

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Vaccination is a highly effective public health strategy that provides protection to both individuals and communities from a range of infectious diseases. Governments monitor vaccination rates carefully, as widespread use of a vaccine within a population is required to extend protection to the general population through “herd immunity,” which is important for protecting infants who are not yet fully vaccinated and others who are unable to undergo vaccination for medical or other reasons. Australia is unique in employing financial incentives to increase vaccination uptake, mainly in the form of various childcare payments and tax benefits linked to timely, age-appropriate vaccination. Despite relatively high compliance with the childhood vaccination schedule, however, the Australian government has determined that rates should be higher and has recently introduced policy that includes removing certain tax and childcare benefits for non-vaccinators and formally disallowing conscientious objection to vaccination (“No Jab No Pay”). In addition, it has raised the possibility of banning unvaccinated children from childcare centres (“No Jab No Play”). This article examines the impact of coercive approaches to childhood vaccination and raises the question of the ethical justification of health policy initiatives based on coercion. We consider the current evidence regarding childhood vaccination in Australia, the small but real risks associated with vaccination, the ethical requirement for consent for medical procedures, and the potential social harms of targeting non-vaccinators. We conclude that the evidence does not support a move to an increasingly mandatory approach that could only be delivered through paternalistic, coercive clinical practices.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)199-209
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Bioethical Inquiry
    Volume15
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

    Keywords

    • Childhood vaccination
    • Conscientious objection
    • Ethics
    • Herd immunity
    • Incentive
    • Public health

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