Essay on Ethical Issues in Childhood Vaccination

Published: 2021-06-30
1026 words
4 pages
9 min to read
Boston College
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One major public health issue in the world today is vaccination. Vaccination refers to the practice of administering a vaccine or an antigenic material to an individual, irrespective of age, so as to prevent infectious diseases from attacking the individual (Song, Silva & Jenkins-Smith, 2014). Most of the common vaccines are administered to children since they are the most vulnerable to infectious diseases. Some of these highly infectious diseases include smallpox, polio, Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), measles and diphtheria (Amin, Parra, Kim-Farley & Fielding, 2012). Although some of the infectious diseases such as smallpox and polio have since been eliminated in the US, the diseases are still common in developing and third world countries. According to Song et al. (2014), all states are provided with the appropriate guidance on public health policy matters concerning childhood vaccination under the World Health Organization (WHO). Of importance to note is that despite this kind of guidance, all childhood vaccines must be proved to be effective and safe. This explains why some ethical issues and controversies have cropped up over the years. This paper analyzes the ethical issues associated with the policy of childhood vaccination, evaluates the ethical dimensions involved, and justifies the policy.

Childhood vaccination is a global public health policy. The main aim of vaccination to stimulate the immune system of an individual with the aim of developing adaptive immunity to a pathogen (Song et al., 2014). In the process, there are benefits and risks since vaccination is medication. The most significant benefit of childhood vaccination is that it gives the child a healthy head-start in life. The risks, or simply stated, side effects such as a mild fever or soreness after injection, are short-lived and minor as compared to the benefits (Amin et al., 2012). According to the ANA code of ethics, childhood vaccination is professionally administered, and although it may not be 100% safe, they are highly effective in disease prevention, and serious risks or adverse reactions are very rare. Nevertheless, some people have registered concerns about childhood vaccination (Crigger 2009). Some of the common questions include whether childhood vaccination causes autism, if it is okay to skip some of them, whether natural immunity is better than vaccination, why the vaccines are administered so early and whether the side effects are dangerous (Amin et al., 2012). These questions obviously raise ethical concerns. Some of the ethical controversies that arise as a result of these questions involve parents and religious organizations. Some parents feel that childhood vaccination is rather risky due to assumed resultant adverse reactions. Some religious groups, on the other hand, such as The Church of Christ, Scientist, which was founded in 1879 in Boston, Massachusetts believe that natural immunity is the best as it reveals the power of the supernatural being that they worship (Song et al., 2014). Such ideas affect the administration of childhood vaccines as they raise ethical concerns.

Childhood vaccination takes various ethical dimensions. Some of the most common dimensions include research and testing, access disparities, informed consent, and mandates (Amin et al., 2012). Concerning the research and testing dimension, ethical issues revolve around the development, population, study design and trial location of the vaccine before licensing (Song et al., 2014). Policy makers require that his work is carried out with the utmost professionalism, expertise, and care. This is because researchers have to consider the safety of the trial group. Children are particularly vulnerable. On access disparities, the ethical issue is that to a large extent, access to childhood vaccination depends on ethnic, racial and socioeconomic status (Song et al., 2014). The main question here is whether all lives are of equal value and as such, whether each child deserves an equal opportunity to be protected from diseases through vaccination. Due to vaccine shortages, medical professionals are faced with the ethical dilemma of who should be given priority when it comes to childhood vaccination (Crigger, 2009). This poses a challenge to the underprivileged yet the ANA code of ethics requires all professionals to be impartial in their work. Informed consent is another ethical dimension in the administration of childhood vaccines. Although the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 obliges doctors to give a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) to the parties involved, there are fears that such an opportunity may fuel unnecessary anxiety among parents and their children (Amin et al., 2012). Information is important. However, the ethical issue is if it is necessary to let the parties involved decide whether to have the all-important vaccine or not. An additional dimension is a mandate to administer the vaccination to the relevant group. State policies in the US, for example, mandate certain vaccinations such as school entry requirements (Song et al., 2014). However, ethical issues arise as a result of objections from individuals and religious groups who argue that such mandate violates their liberty and autonomy.

Childhood vaccination is a public health policy that has elicited a lot of ethical issues and debates. For a long time, the policy has proved effective in protecting children against infectious diseases. In the United States, for example, childhood vaccination has helped in the elimination of infectious diseases such as smallpox and polio (Amin et al., 2012). This demonstrates the effectiveness of the policy. Although a few side effects are noted, the benefits outweigh such effects. It is, therefore, a much-needed policy. It is important to note that those who reject vaccination as well as the disadvantaged children who cannot access it die or suffer the effects of the diseases once they are attacked. There is no infringement of one's rights in childhood vaccination since it is done with the best interests of the child at heart. When effectively administered, vaccines greatly contribute to significantly reducing many childhood diseases that are infectious. Therefore, childhood vaccination is a very critical public health policy that should be upheld so as to protect all children.


Amin, A., Parra, M., Kim-Farley, R., & Fielding, J. (2012). Ethical issues concerning vaccination requirements. Public Health Reviews, 34(1).

Crigger, N. (2013). The ANA code of ethics. OR Nurse, 3(3), 15-19.

Song, G., Silva, C., & Jenkins-Smith, H. (2014). Cultural worldview and preference for childhood vaccination policy. Policy Studies Journal, 42(4), 528-554.

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