Although many people within the United States believe in vaccinating their children, there are still an ample amount of those who chose not to do so. “…many states allow personal exemptions from vaccination. Religious exemptions are permitted in 48 states and philosophical exemptions in 15 states” (1998). Those who truly should be exempt are those with medical issues; Who in all actuality are unable to properly process the vaccination.
If one thinks about the ethical implications of not vaccinating a child, they will realize how truly unethical it is. It has been scientifically proven that vaccinations do more help, than harm to children. “A recent study showed that risk of measles infection during 1985-1992 in the United States was, on average, 35 times greater in children with personal exemptions compared with vaccinated children” (Salmon, Haber, Gangarosa, Phillips, Smith, Chen).
This is not only unfair to the children having a greater risk of disease, but unfair to those whose bodies are not so fortunate to withstand the vaccination. Weaker immune systems will not be able to fight off disease the same way a healthy person would. In most cases, it will cause more trauma to the ill person; Which in turn, could have been prevented if the healthy child had been vaccinated.
When thinking of vaccinations, one may be compelled to think of meta-ethics; or rather how right and wrong will be perceived. It is evident that every has their own opinion, and paradigm. Yet, it is difficult to know whose opinion or paradigm is actually accurate. One can really hone in on the topics of ethical relativism and ethical universalism.
Ethical relativism, on one hand, essentially explains, that although something may be ethical to someone, it could be very unethical to another. In the case of vaccinating your children, some people truly believe they are doing the ethical thing; either by way of their religion or by protecting their child from the side-effects that people have come to associate with vaccinations. It is ok to tell someone that their philosophical and religious beliefs are “wrong”? Many may say “No”; Especially when viewing the situation from a universalism point-of-view. Ethical universalism sides with the viewpoint that is deemed best for society as a whole. Vaccinating one’s child has proven to be better for the world as a whole, by stopping the spread of deadly diseases that can be prevented. Overall, it is best to vaccinate your children. From an ethical standpoint, by not vaccinating a child, that parent or guardian is not only putting the child at risk, but those who are already sick as well.
Daniel R. Feikin, MD, MSPH; Dennis C. Lezotte, PhD; Richard F. Hamman, MD, DrPH; et alDaniel A. Salmon, MPH; Robert T. Chen, MD, MA; Richard E. Hoffman, MD, MPH JAMA. 2000;284(24):3145-3150. doi:10.1001/jama.284.24.3145
National Vaccine Advisory Committee. Report of the NVAC Working Group on Philosophical Exemptions. In: Minutes of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, January 13, 1998. Atlanta, Ga: National Vaccine Program Office; 1998:1-5.
Salmon DA, Haber M, Gangarosa EJ, Phillips L, Smith NJ, Chen RT. Health consequences of religious and philosophical exemptions from immunization laws: individual and societal risk of measles. JAMA.1999;282:47-53.