U1: How Unethical is it to Skip on Vaccinating Your Child?

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.


  1. Rachel Houston September 23, 2018 at 4:33 PM #

    I think your blog post is related to one of the most heavily debated topics in today’s world. I have worked in healthcare or healthcare education for the past 13 years and this is a topic I see day in and day out. As a mother, I have also taken part in this discussion many times.
    While I can absolutely appreciate the risk factors and the unfortunate adverse effects some suffer, as a healthcare professional, I have seen far more harm done from decisions not to vaccinate than I have otherwise. Personally, I have also witnessed the problem with not vaccinating. My daughter was hospitalized for almost 3 weeks when she was just 18 months old. She had contracted a form of meningitis from a child she was in contact with who had not been vaccinated. Children cannot receive this vaccine until about age 11 at the youngest so my daughter was obviously far too young. We were involved in an event with children of all ages and there was a 13 year old who wasn’t symptomatic until the days after the event. It turned out he had meningitis and no one knew until after the event, thus opening countless children and families up to what can be a lethal infection. Seeing my daughter so sick was terrifying and during that time, I could honestly not understand why a person would chose not to vaccinate their children. I am beyond grateful that both my daughter and the young man who was sick recovered with treatment and hospitalizations. However, this could have been prevented. I consider all the things that have been essentially eradicated in this country because of vaccines and I can’t imagine not vaccinating my children. It feels as though I am protecting them as well as all the others they come into contact with.
    As I said, both as a person and as a healthcare provider, I can absolutely understand the risk factors and the adverse effects. I know that some people who have egg allergies have allergic reactions to the influenza vaccine, etc. So I understand why a very small population of people avoid vaccination. But for the majority, the benefits just far outweigh the risks. Everything carries risks, walking across the street, taking a tylenol, having a simple surgical procedure to remove tonsils, etc.; everything is risky to some extent.
    Tying in concepts from the class- I believe the ethics could probably be argued from many perspective for the reasons you mentioned as well as those mentioned in the comments before me. Meta-ethics and deontology are definitely two approaches to consider. I think the decision to vaccinate pairs nicely with ethical universalism. As the course module mentioned, this approach gives rise to the saying “the lesser of two evils” (PSU, 2018). If a child is vaccinated, not only is the child protected against the disease, it also prevents the child from getting others sick. However, at what cost? Knowing what I know now and having been through several situations regarding vaccination, I can honestly say it’s a difficult decision for any parent to make for their child. It all comes down to what that parent feels is the lesser of the two evils, in this case the evils being the disease the vaccine is preventing, or the adverse effects from the vaccine.

    Thank you for an insightful blog post. Always an interesting topic of discussion!

    PSU. (2018). PSY533: L03 Meta-ethics. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1913945/pages/l03-meta-ethics?module_item_id=25041779

  2. Megan McFadden Ferkler September 22, 2018 at 7:31 AM #

    U01 Reply: How Unethical is it to Skip on Vaccinating Your Child

    As someone who has adverse effects to vaccines, I disagree with the conclusion that vaccinating across the board, is ethical. When considering this topic I immediately consider he ethical dilemma of forcing people to vaccinate. Is it ethical to force someone to do something that they know could kill or injure them? I by no means think that everyone should agree with my viewpoint on vaccines, but I do think it should be a choice for families. If you apply the rights theory of deontological ethics to the dilemma of choosing to vaccinate or not vaccinate you or your children, either decision would be considered ethical as long as you are respectful to the rights of others, ie. their right of choice. Perhaps we should ask ourselves the egoist-universalist question, how to we balance the rights of the individual with the rights of all?


    Penn State University. 2018. L03. PSY 533: Meta- Ethics. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1913945/pages/l03-meta-ethics?module_item_id=25041779

  3. Heather R Stock September 21, 2018 at 10:54 AM #

    As a mother of an almost two year old todder, a recent story stood out to me when it stated, “The case of a healthy 11-month-old baby who suffered a stroke serves as a stark reminder of the importance of vaccines, doctors warned” (Gander, 2018). The story discussed that the baby had chickenpox after two of his older siblings had it two to three months before the baby had the stroke. Doctors believe that a complication of the chickenpox caused the stroke because blood vessels in the brain get infected and inflamed.

    In the article, according to the CDC the best way to prevent chickenpox is the vaccination (Gander, 2018) in toddlers because as also stated in your blog post, children have weaker immune systems and cannot fight off infections as easily as an adult could. This is an ethical decision that a parent is faced with when choosing to vaccinate over delayed vaccination or no vaccination. Using meta ethics and how it is “concerned with how right and wrong are determined” (PSU, 2018) this theory focuses on behaving in an ethical manner. A parent needs information on vaccines and needs to weigh the consequences so they can align with their personal standards. After reading this article and combined with this blog post I feel like the ethical decision of choosing to vaccinate is right for the safety of my family and others that are exposed to my daughter in daycare facilities.

    Gander, K. (2018, August 16). Baby who had stroke after chickenpox shows why we need vaccinations, doctors warn. Retrieved September 21, 2018, from https://www.newsweek.com/baby-who-had-stroke-after-chickenpox-shows-why-we-need-vaccinations-doctors-1076293

    Pennsylvania State University (2018). Pennsylvania State University (2018). PSY 533, Sec 001: Ethics and Ldrshp. Lesson 3: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1913945/pages/l03-meta-ethics?module_item_id=25041779

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