218228 Immunizations and vaccine origin: What is a socially just public health response to ethical-moral concerns?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 : 11:10 AM - 11:30 AM

Mary E. Homan, MA , Center for Health Policy and Ethics, Creighton University, Lawrence, KS
Healthy People 2010 set a goal of a 90% vaccination coverage level as “sufficient to prevent circulation of viruses and bacteria-causing vaccine-preventable diseases.” Accordingly, all US states require proof of immunization for school entry. As of January 1998, all states also allow medical exemptions, forty-eight states permit religious exemptions, and fifteen allow for philosophical or personal exemptions.

One particular religious objection resides in the origin of certain scheduled immunizations. Vaccines for rubella, chicken pox, measles, mumps, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, kidney inflammation and other hepatitis A infections derive from the human fetal diploid cell lines MRC-5 and WI-38. Right-to-life groups have advocated for religious exemptions to mandatory vaccinations because of the process used to originally obtain these cell lines. Such groups call for parents' moral obligation to refuse certain vaccinations for their children. Alternatively, a group of researchers concluded that those who claimed philosophical and/or religious exemptions “may create some risk to the community because unvaccinated or undervaccinated persons may be a source of transmission.”

The main purpose is to explore the moral issues and public health concerns associated with these vaccinations. Right-to-life opposition to vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell lines, the moral values and benefits associated with receiving these vaccines, and public health's response will be specifically addressed. The most recent scientific studies and writings from both the medical and theological communities (including ethicists) will be utilized. Recommendations for parents, public health workers and health care practitioners regarding the use of vaccines will also be addressed.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Identify the ethical issues surrounding immunization. Define Beauchamp & Childress’ 4-principles approach to bioethics. Explain moral objections to certain CDC recommended vaccines. Articulate public health’s role in promoting vaccination coverage.

Keywords: Ethics, Immunizations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I graduated with a Masters of Arts in Systematic Theology with an emphasis in Catholic Moral Theology with research interests addressing the intersection of theology (morality & ethics) with public health. I have been employed in public health research for many years and have taken numerous graduate level public health courses with an emphasis in health behaviors & epidemiology. My co-author, Sharon Homan, is a PhD in Biostatistics with over 30 years academic experience in maternal and child health and public health ethics.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.