Health vs choice? The vaccination debate

Governments in some countries, like Italy and France, have introduced new measures to compel vaccination against specified diseases, linking proof of vaccination to children’s access to state-provided schooling. These measures are presented as a necessary expression of the public good, of the right of children to be protected from serious and sometimes life-threatening diseases, and of the need to uphold truth against lies. However, the turn to compulsion has led some commentators, even some who support vaccination, to raise questions about these measures. Over 200 years since Edward Jenner’s use of cowpox to provide immunity from smallpox, what should we make of the situation now? Is there a legitimate right for individuals or parents to refuse vaccination? Or are claims for the public good and for the right of children to good health, expressed if necessary through compulsion, more ethically persuasive?

Filmed at the Battle of ideas, speakers in this compelling debate are: Dr Michael Fitzpatrick general practitioner; author, MMR and Autism: what parents need to know and Defeating Autism: a damaging delusion Dr Alberto Giubilini research fellow, Wellcome Centre for Ethics and the Humanities, University of Oxford; author, The Ethics of Vaccination. Emilie Karafillakis research fellow, Vaccine Confidence Project, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Nancy McDermott writer; adviser to Park Slope Parents; author, The Problem with Parenting: a therapeutic mode of childrearing (forthcoming). The chair is Ellie Lee professor of family and parenting research, University of Kent, Canterbury; director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies.