Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 19 (3):283-289 (2010)
AbstractThe ethical tension in childhood vaccination policies is often framed as one of balancing the value of choice with the duty to protect. Because infectious diseases spread from person to person, unvaccinated children are usually described as putting others around them at risk, violating a perceived right to be protected from harm. Editors of Lancet Infectious Diseases recently argued against mandatory vaccination, reminding us that the resort to mandatory vaccination as a means of achieving high vaccination rates is still very much a topic of Western vaccine debates. The nation of Japan offers an interesting case study in childhood vaccination policy, as it has an entirely voluntary system that achieves high vaccination rates. In this paper, we offer an overview of Japanese childhood vaccine policy, suggest some ways to contextualize and understand how a voluntary system achieves high vaccination rates, and speculate on what the future of Japanese vaccination policymaking and government–public relations may hold
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