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Individual Rights & Vaccination Policy

Individual Rights & Vaccination Policy

Individual Rights & Vaccination Policy

After reviewing Module 2: Lecture Materials & Resources, discuss the following;

School board trustees are requesting public comment before they vote on a vaccination policy for all children in a local school district. Should individual rights (e.g., parents’ rights to decide whether to vaccinate their children) be compromised to control the spread of communicable diseases for the good of society?

Individual Rights & Vaccination Policy

Vaccination policies can prove important for enhancing public health, and ensuring that the health and wellbeing of people and the communities they live in is assured. Rus and Groselj (2021) note that vaccination is the most important public health achievement of the twentieth century, but despite this recognition, there still exists a lack of consensus concerning its beneficence and importance among the general population. It is further noted that vaccines are victims of their own success, as they have succeeded in reducing the incidences of diseases, and in the process diminished the historical experience of disease burdens, which makes some people in our modern society to be unappreciative of the important role that vaccines play in public health (Rus & Groselj, 2021). Considering the known benefits associated with vaccination, and the arguments against the practice in some fronts, it is important to consider whether individual rights should be upheld or compromised as it pertains to the use of vaccines to control the spread of communicable diseases for the good of society.

Some ethical considerations should be made when making a decision on whether individual rights should be compromised in favor of vaccination for the benefit of society. Hendrix et al. (2016) have noted that childhood vaccination must maintain a balance between parents’ autonomy in deciding whether their children should be immunized, and the potential public health benefits that may be realized by making vaccines mandatory. Where the spread of communicable diseases is imminent, it would be prudent to compromise on individual rights for the greater good. Vaccination results in attainment of herd immunity, which ultimately reduces the risk of the spread of a given disease. Compromising on individual rights and mandating vaccines can be viewed as an ethical approach in ensuring that all members of a community contributes to herd immunity (Hendrix et al., 2016). When individuals are given the liberty over vaccination decisions, they are less likely to accept the immunization due to perceived risks, but will still stand to benefit from the attainment of herd immunity. To address this problem of free riders it become important for government and other policy makers to compromise on this individual liberty and ensure that everyone is required to receive vaccination to aid in preventing spread of communicable diseases.

Forcefully mandating vaccinations may not always be successful, as we live in a country where individual rights are strongly acknowledged and protected. Mandatory vaccines may be a disproportionate intrusive legal measure, and should only be considered in certain conditions, for example where the disease is severe and extraordinarily contagious and where there is a well developed and tested vaccine with proved safety and effectiveness (Pierik, 2020). Mandating risky or novel vaccination may be potentially risky, and in such cases, individual must be provided with an autonomy to make a decision on whether to receive the vaccination or not, based on a personal analysis of the potential benefits and risks.

In the midst of this ethical dilemma, communicating and providing individuals with adequate information is important. When individuals are well-informed they are in a better position to accept vaccination and provide informed consent (Hendrix et al., 2016). Opposition to vaccination may be due to different reasons such as religious beliefs and conspiracy theories. Understanding the hesitancy of individuals, and providing adequate factual information and education may prove effective in communicating the importance of vaccination, which would allow more members of a community to willingly adopt immunization programs without being forced through intrusive mandatory vaccination programs (Hendrix et al., 2016). Overall, the benefits of vaccination cannot be understated, but it is also important to make some ethical considerations as it pertains to the implementation of immunization programs and individual rights. In some cases, it is justifiable to compromise on individual rights, while in others communication and information dissemination should be prioritized to ensure individuals provided informed consent.

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