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Applying Ethical Principles Of Vaccination

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In recent year the controversary surrounding vaccines have risen to the limelight, but the history surrounding this ordeal is much longer than that. Ever since the first vaccination in 1798, the impacts of vaccines have ranged from the suppression of polio to smallpox worldwide in the use to reshape the landscape of human health and medicine (Martin, 2015). In fact, vaccines have been so prominent that scientists consider them among the greatest accomplishments in the public health world. Despite the strong evidence of the benefits of immunization, a growing number of parents are deliberately postponing or refusing vaccinations due to vaccine effectiveness and safety concerns. An individual’s decision not to vaccinate their child, whatever their reasoning, is a decision that puts their community at risk from a potentially devastating disease.

Overview of the Case Study

Jenna and Chris Smith are the proud parents of a 5-day-old baby girl named Ana, who they desire to raise her as naturally as possible. For the Smiths also choose to breastfeed Ana for the first six months, make her organic baby food, and not allowing her to be vaccinated. Their new pediatrician, Dr. Angela Kerr, listens intently to the Smiths' description of their research, related to the potential harms that could lead to autism in many children. The Smiths conclude by resolutely stating they've decided not to vaccinate Ana, despite the recommendations of the medical community.

Face with this dilemma, Dr. Kerr explained to the Smiths how vaccines have saved the lives of millions of children worldwide and have been largely responsible for decreases in mortality over the past century. For example, in the 1990s’ a decreased of infection related to the potentially fatal Haemophilus influenzae type b, was the results from routine immunization. Similarly, epidemics such as measles are usually associated with individuals who have not been vaccinated against the virus that can cause the disease.

Dr. Kerr goes on to endorse the safety of vaccines by informing the Smiths of updated data sources such as the federal government's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The VAERS is nationwide vaccine safety surveillance program sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that is accessible to the public at (Capella University, 2020). The VAERS system allows vaccine transparency by encouraging the public and healthcare providers to report adverse reactions to vaccines and permits safety to monitor by the government. No form of vaccine has been proven to cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or any developmental disorder. However, an ingredient known as thimerosal was once thought to cause autism, but there is no proven risk. Finally, Dr. Kerr’s ethically support about vaccination was not enough to convince the Smiths that vaccinating Ana was safe.

Analysis of Ethical Issues in the Case Study

In the case study, the main factor that led to Dr. Kerr’s ethical dilemma is Ann’s parents’ refusal of vaccination for their daughter with the belief that vaccines may weaken their child’s immune system and therefore cause autism. As Dr. Kerr respects to the belief of Ana’s parents, she decides to explain the risks and benefits of preventive that could involve. Dr. Kerr assured the family that she too is acting in the best interest of the child; therefore, she thinks it is her duty to make sure Ana receives medical attention. She explained in the conservation to the Smith by making the choice not to vaccine is an impact not only themselves and their child but also other members of the community; therefore, they have a duty to do what is necessary to minimize the impacts on others. If they were not willing to do your part for “herd immunity”, they need to take responsibility for staying out of the herd (Cappella University, 2020).

Using the Ethical Decision-Making Model to Analyze the Case Study

The three components of the ethical decision-making model—moral awareness, moral judgment, and ethical behavior—can help analyze the ethical issue outlined in the case study. Doctors are often faced with situations that require sound ethical decision-making ability. Determining the appropriate strategy to take when faced with a difficult ethical dilemma can be a challenge. Using an ethical decision-making model would not only support the doctor’s best interest, but also support Dr. Kerr in being an ethical health care provider. Dr. Kerr’s moral awareness is reflected by the fact that she recognizes the circumstances surrounding Ana not being vaccine. Her moral judgment is reflected by her decision to try to convince the Smiths that vaccinations have proven to be tremendously successful in controlling disease and mortality; however, they are not completely free of harmful side effects.

By reviewing these ethical principles, which serve as the foundation of the guidelines, will help Dr. Kerr to clarify the issue involved. The five anchor principles of an ethical decision making includes autonomy, justice, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and fidelity are each vital in and of themselves to a healthy counseling relationship (McCartney, 2017). Dr. Kerr should also document her decision-making process in the Smith’s file as a health care provider.

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Effectiveness of Communication Approaches in the Case Study

Listening and trust plays a vital role in patient–healthcare professionals communication when it comes to issues such as vaccinations. The paramount challenge in achieving high acceptance of vaccines is finding interventions that will lead to full compliance with the parent satisfaction and build trust in the recommendations of the professional. The healthcare providers should aim for both parental satisfaction and a positive decision to vaccinate. By active listening to the Smiths, Dr. Kerr learning their research which included online mommy–blogs were the main resource of how vaccination may cause autism in children. Despite the recommendations of the medical community, online mommy-blogs were their main source not to vaccine Ana.

Dr. Kerr understands she cannot vaccine Ana without the Smiths’ permission, because she would be overstepping her boundaries as a health care professional. So, Dr. Kerr decides to present them with the information they need to make an informed decision. She stressed scientific studies do not support the concern that thimerosal causes autism were the least convincing and least believable of the messages tested. She also explained the benefits of the vaccine do not outweigh the perceived risks of the vaccine. With the upmost respect of the Smiths’ emotions and providing them with all-inclusive information about vaccination, Dr. Kerr communicated the situation to them in an effective manner. However, she was unable to convince the Smiths to get Ana vaccinated.

Although Dr. Kerr followed a logical approach while dealing with the issue at hand, it seems to have been ineffective as Ana’s parents continued to stand by their beliefs of vaccinations would lead to autism. However, listening patiently to the patients’ problems along with showing empathy and genuine care while communicating with them are some lessons that health care professionals can take back from this case study.

Resolving the Ethical Dilemma by Applying Ethical Principles

Whether an individual role is that of a doctor or a health care administrator, working in the field of health care can be both highly rewarding and challenging. Numerous medical treatments have both advantages and downsides and allowing the patient to have their own input and circumstances to consider. Several foundational principles are use as keystones for the best ethical practice and the process of ethical decision making to the help professions. By examining an ethical dilemma with regard to these principles, a healthcare professional may come to a better understanding of the conflicting issues. For this cast study, the beneficence principal will serve as the best the foundation of the guidelines.

Beneficence reflects the medical professional’s responsibility to contribute to the welfare of the client (McCartney, 2017). Simply means to be proactive and prevent harm when possible. Beneficence can come in many forms, such as prevention and early intervention actions that contribute to the betterment of clients. Dr. Kerr tried to convince the Smiths that vaccines are different than most medicines because they are strictly preventative to diseases that are no longer potentially a threat to babies and young children.


Although, health professionals such as Dr. Angela Kerr have a central role in maintaining public trust in vaccination, including addressing parents’ concerns. There are numerous reasons why parents such as the Smiths may be opposed to immunizing their children, such as fear of the side effects. By being respectful and carefully listening to the parents’ concerns, Dr. Kerr may in fact be able to ease the parents’ anxieties regarding vaccine Ana by providing benefit information as well as discussing misinterpretations that might exist.

It can be difficult to determine what is in the best interest of the child; however, it is important to balance the parents’ opinion with scientific evidence. As a healthcare provider serving the children in the communities, it is Dr. Kerr’s responsibility to treat these children with the best preventative medicine possible. In so doing, Dr. Kerr will gain the trust of the parents who may afterward make the decision to immunize.


  1. Capella University (2020). NHS-FP4000 Exemplar Sample Ethical Case Study. Retrieved from Cases in health services management.
  2. Martin, B. (2015). On the Suppression of Vaccination Dissent. Science & Engineering Ethics, 21(1), 143–157.
  3. McCartney, J. J. (2017). The duty to vaccinate: Clarifying and broadening the basis of the obligation. American Journal of Bioethics, 17(4), 46–47. https://doi-
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Applying Ethical Principles Of Vaccination. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
“Applying Ethical Principles Of Vaccination.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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