We are in the midst of the worst measles epidemic since it was declared to be eradicated in 2000. There is greater vaccine hesitancy and refusal among parents, namely due to a perception that the risk of vaccine preventable diseases is low and that there are significant risks associated with vaccines.
Despite data to support the safety and efficacy of vaccines, there remains a small but vocal community of activists opposed to mandatory childhood vaccination. Dr. Jennifer Needle addressed how these misperceptions came to be, the impact they are having on public health today, and two key ethical questions:
- Do parents have a moral duty to vaccinate their children?
- What is the appropriate response from the medical community regarding parents who refuse to vaccinate their children?
Jennifer Needle, MD, MPH, works in the Pediatric ICU at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. As the sole member of the faculty in the Department of Pediatrics with an appointment in the Center for Bioethics, she serves as a resource to students, residents, and faculty who face ethical challenges in the clinical care of pediatric patients. She has developed a local, regional, and national reputation as a leading early investigator in the field of pediatric palliative care and advance care planning.