Measles Vaccination is Best for Children: The Argument for Relying on Herd Immunity Fails

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 14 (3):375-384 (2017)


This article examines an argument which may negatively influence measles vaccination uptake. According to the argument, an individual child in a highly vaccinated society may be better off by being non-vaccinated; the child does not risk vaccine adverse effects and is protected against measles through herd immunity. Firstly, the conclusion of the argument is challenged by showing that herd immunity’s protection is unreliable and inferior to vaccination. Secondly, the logic of the argument is challenged by showing that the argument is inherently self-defeating and therefore logically inconsistent. In practice the argument cannot be used to protect children against measles. Measles vaccination is undoubtedly best for children, even in highly vaccinated societies. Only if a medical contraindication to vaccination exists should vaccination be waived in favour of reliance on herd immunity. This places obligations on those who stand in care relationships with the child: parents, healthcare providers, and the state.

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