Informing Education Policy on MMR: Balancing Individual Freedoms and Collective Responsibilities for the Promotion of Public Health
Nursing Ethics 2005 January; 12(1): 43-58
The recent decrease in public confidence in the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine has important implications for individuals and public health. This article presents moral arguments relating to conflicts between individual autonomy and collective responsibilities in vaccination decisions with a view to informing and advising health professionals and improving the effectiveness of education policies in avoiding resurgence of endemic measles. Lower population immunity, due to falling uptake, is hastening the need for greater public awareness of the consequences for the population. Vaccination refusals go hand in hand with responsibilities owed to future generations and society in not knowingly contributing to preventable harms. Issues such as parents' rights are considered and balanced against: collective responsibilities for public health; permissibility of 'free- riding'; conflicting duties of health professionals; and possible enforcement of vaccination. It is suggested that the arguments may form a persuasive tool for the practice of health professionals involved in informing and supporting parents' vaccination decisions.
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