Why is vaccination—one of the most successful public health measures in the history of medicine—a topic of ethical controversy? It is because immunization works best when all those at risk for infection are vaccinated. Hence medicine endorses, and laws sometime insist upon, vaccination of the public, a practice that reinvigorates the ever-present struggle among individuals, science, and the state. This month's authors examine the ethics of mandating vaccination, managing vaccine shortages, conducting human trials for proposed vaccines, developing a vaccine that would interfere with the brain’s response to stress, and more.
Donna T. Chen, MD, MPH, Lois Shepherd, JD, and Daniel M. Becker, MD, MPH, MFA
When most statutes about confidential treatment of adolescents were adopted, immunization against sexually transmitted infection was not anticipated, so the statutes contain no specific inclusion of such preventive measures.
Physicians, scientists, and public health officials are routinely on the defensive, refuting allegations of unconfirmed risks, justifying the value of vaccines, and striving to preserve public trust in vaccination overall.