Vaccine refusal harms and risks harming innocent bystanders. People are not entitled to harm innocents or to impose deadly risks on others, so in these cases there is nothing to be said for the right to refuse vaccination. Compulsory vaccination is therefore justified because non-vaccination can rightly be prohibited, just as other kinds of harmful and risky conduct are rightly prohibited. I develop an analogy to random gunfire to illustrate this point. Vaccine refusal, I argue, is morally similar to firing a weapon into the air and endangering innocent bystanders. By re-framing vaccine refusal as harmful and reckless conduct my aim is to shift the focus of the vaccine debate from non-vaccinators' religious and refusal rights to everyone else's rights against being infected with contagious illnesses. Religious freedom and rights of informed consent do not entitle non-vaccinators to harm innocent bystanders, and so coercive vaccination requirements are permissible for the sake of the potential victims of the anti-vaccine movement.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Vaccination centres in the Campania Region, southern Italy, vaccinate children with a hexavalent vaccine that contains the mandatory vaccines diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, and viral Hepatitis B. This vaccine also includes two non-mandatory vaccines, pertussis and Haemophilus influenzae type B. Information about these optional vaccines should be communicated to the parents, and informed consent should be obtained from parents before vaccination. We explored whether informed consent was delivered to the parents, whether they signed the consent form, and whether they read and acquired the information about the vaccination that their child would receive.
Childhood immunisations are provided at specific public health vaccination centres, "Unita Operative Materno-infantili's" (UOMIs). We selected four UOMI from the Campania Region where we interviewed 1039 parents bringing their children for the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd doses of hexavalent vaccine. The consent forms were collected from the four vaccination centres and were analysed with respect to clarity and completeness.
Most of the respondents (89.5%) were mothers between 20 and 39 years of age (80.4% vs 59.6% of the fathers), they were married (87.2% vs 93.5% of the fathers), and only one-half of them were employed (50.2% vs 92.6% of the fathers). The informed consent form was received from 58.1% of the parents and signed by 52.8%, but read by 35.0% of them. Only 1.5% of parents knew which vaccines were mandatory, and 25.0% of them believed that the entire hexavalent vaccine was mandatory. When we asked the parents which non-mandatory vaccinations were administered to their children, only 0.5% indicated the Haemophilus influenzae type B and none indicated the pertussis vaccine. Thirty-six per cent of the parents replied that their child had not received any non-mandatory vaccines. No parents were informed by the operators that their children would receive non-mandatory vaccines.
In our study, consent procedures did not allow parents to acquire correct information about vaccine options for their children. Furthermore, not one health care provider informed parents that their child was receiving non-mandatory vaccines. The informed consent process and the individual health care providers did not properly inform parents about the vaccines administered to their children.
BMC Public Health 02/2014; 14(1):211. DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-14-211 · 2.26 Impact Factor
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