Investigating the Vaccine Debate: Prevention or Promotion?


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

Bioethical Questions:

  1. Should vaccinations be government-mandated?
  2. How can the principle of autonomy be upheld, if at all, should vaccines become mandated?
  3. 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.

An overview of the two opposing perspectives in the vaccine debate.

Youtube Clip Covering Both Perspectives

Bioethical Principles

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.

Padlet For You to Share Your Thoughts!



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  1. April 26, 2019 by Julia Cohon

    Hi Heather! Your topic is super interesting and very relevant in the news today. I agree with your standpoint in saying that vaccines should be promoted as they are more benefitting then they are hurtful. What do you think are the best ways for people to spread this information? What are the biggest challenges when facing this debate?

    • April 27, 2019 by Heather Gadalla

      Hey Julia! I think the best ways for people to spread this information are through media campaigns, whether that be through the use of social media, billboards, or even just posters in drugstores/doctors offices encouraging people to get vaccinated. The biggest challenges when facing this debate are definitely the vastly differing opinions that people have and how religious beliefs, personal values, and other moral dilemmas contribute to the discussion.

  2. April 27, 2019 by Julia.Kashimura

    The inclusion of the quotation is very unique since you’re the first person I’ve seen that used it. It gives a good first impression in the introduction paragraph. I also liked the video covering both perspectives.

    • April 27, 2019 by Heather Gadalla

      Hi Julia! Thank you for checking out the presentation – I’m glad you liked the quote and video! 🙂

  3. April 28, 2019 by Stefanie.Pollock

    Hi Heather! I thought your project topic was very unique and interesting. I liked how you thought about all the different types of opinions and how they may affect the decisions that they make. I agree with you in your conclusion. I think that we have a very similar standpoint about the use of vaccines. I thought that your videos were informative and helped deepen your project. Nice work!

    • April 28, 2019 by Heather Gadalla

      Hi Stefanie! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting on my project! I’m glad you enjoyed watching the videos and that you found the page informative 🙂

  4. April 30, 2019 by Leo.Abelson

    Hi Heather, your project was very interesting and interactive. I liked how you added a padlet so the viewers can share their thoughts.

  5. April 30, 2019 by Aneesha Kumar

    Hi Heather! I thought your project was great! I agree with you that vaccines are important and benefit society. However, you mentioned being against mandating vaccines, but if this could prevent outbreaks, do you still see personal beliefs a valid exemption? What is your opinion on this balance?

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