The vaccine debate is one that has been around for decades, and is one with no clear verdict. Examining the controversy around this topic involves taking into account a multitude of perspectives and looking at factors such as culture, religion, and other personal beliefs. Two principles of bioethics that directly conflict regarding this debate are the principle of autonomy and the principle of beneficence. The principle of autonomy essentially states that individuals should have the right to make their own informed medical decisions, and have their personal wishes respected. The principle of beneficence is how the decisions made in the medical community should strive to benefit everyone in society. The vaccine debate is critical to every member of society, because one person’s decision can affect the lives of many others.
“…while vaccines may seem like a personal choice, vaccination protects the entire population—and accordingly, failure to vaccinate could have negative population-level consequences.”Harvard University, 2016
- Should vaccinations be government-mandated?
- How can the principle of autonomy be upheld, if at all, should vaccines become mandated?
- Should the right to the principle of autonomy mean that no legal action should be taken?
UN Sustainable Development Goal
Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
This topic relates to goal three as it directly affects the health of entire communities. Vaccination policies certainly have an impact on the health and well-being of individuals.
Youtube Clip Covering Both Perspectives
Principle of Non-Maleficence: From the “anti-vaccine” perspective, since vaccines can occasionally have harmful side effects, forcing people to vaccinate their children does not exactly align with the principle that aims to prevent harm. However, the aim to eliminate the threat of the disease that the vaccine is trying to prevent does fall under this principle, and is an argument to support the “pro-vaccine” side of the debate.
Principle of Beneficence: A population only has a chance of being immune to a certain disease if there is a very high vaccination rate. This is the concept of “herd immunity”, which essentially means that once a certain percentage of a population has been vaccinated, the population as a whole is no longer at risk of being wiped out by the disease.
Principle of Autonomy: Individuals do have the right, under the principle of autonomy, to choose whether or not to get vaccinated. Parents therefore also have the right to choose whether or not their children get vaccinated, and it would be infringing upon this principle to interfere and mandate vaccinations.
Personally, I believe vaccines should be promoted, but not mandated. Mandating vaccinations would be an extremely difficult process, especially seeing as certain religions and other personal beliefs directly stand in the way of people being willing to get vaccinated. Therefore, legally requiring vaccines would infringe quite heavily on the principle of autonomy. I do believe that the principle of non-maleficence is won over by the “pro-vaccine” side of the debate, because preventing harm to an entire population is more important to me than the very rare potential side effects of a vaccination. This also connects to the principle of beneficence, which aims to provide benefit to as many people as possible. Following the concept of herd immunity, as well as the WHOs success in eradicating certain diseases from certain regions through vaccines, I believe that vaccine-promoting media should be much more widely seen.