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    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Giubilini, Alberto Douglas, Thomas and Savulescu, Julian 2018. The moral obligation to be vaccinated: utilitarianism, contractualism, and collective easy rescue. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy,

    Weinstock, Daniel 2016. Can Republicanism Tame Public Health?. Public Health Ethics, Vol. 9, Issue. 2, p. 125.

    Jamrozik, Euzebiusz Handfield, Toby and Selgelid, Michael J 2016. Victims, vectors and villains: are those who opt out of vaccination morally responsible for the deaths of others?. Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 42, Issue. 12, p. 762.

    Jamrozik, Euzebiusz de la Fuente-Núñez, Vânia Reis, Andreas Ringwald, Pascal and Selgelid, Michael J. 2015. Ethical aspects of malaria control and research. Malaria Journal, Vol. 14, Issue. 1,

    Moodley, Keymanthri Hardie, Kate Selgelid, Michael J Waldman, Ronald J Strebel, Peter Rees, Helen and Durrheim, David N 2013. Ethical considerations for vaccination programmes in acute humanitarian emergencies. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Vol. 91, Issue. 4, p. 290.

  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: July 2011

8 - Vaccination ethics



Ever since it began as an intervention designed to protect against smallpox, vaccination has been controversial. However, the passion that people bring to debates about vaccination is not always supported by a fair review of the evidence and issues. In this chapter I will outline and discuss a few of the key arguments about this important area of public health.

I begin with some clarifications about the limits of this chapter. First, vaccination at its broadest can be taken to involve some form of artificial stimulation of the immune system as a response to actual or potential bacterial or virological infection. Vaccination might be either preventive (given prior to potential infection) or therapeutic (given in response to infection). This chapter is deliberately termed ‘vaccination ethics’ as I will restrict my discussion to priming of the immune system before contact with any disease. This means we can exclude from this chapter discussion of other forms of immunization such as the giving of immunoglobulin after possible exposure to, or after infection with, a disease. This is not because such techniques are unimportant, but because both the use of immunoglobulin and therapeutic vaccination might be thought of as primarily clinical interventions rather than public health activities. This chapter will concentrate on preventive vaccination as this is the core controversial issue. Second, the classic image of vaccination consists of an injection (into the muscle or under the skin).

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