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Ethical Principles: Parents’ Vaccination Concerns


Vaccinations play a crucial role in the prevention of many diseases, and it is essential to do them early in life. However, some parents refuse to vaccinate their children based on various factors, such as religious beliefs, safety concerns, or specialists’ advice. Jenna and Chris Smith present a problematic choice for Dr. Angela Kerr. Their refusal is based on a personal study of the topic that made the family accept a distorted point of view. As Dr. Kerr struggles to convince the parents to agree on vaccination based on the evidence she presents, she faces a moral and ethical dilemma (Capella University, n.d.). This case study reviews the ethical and moral choices of doctors who aim to convince parents to vaccinate their children.

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Case Background and Analysis

There are situations where the answer is not strictly objective, although it might appear to look so from the position of a professional. The ethics code suggests that a healthcare professional must respect the choice of his or her patients. Simultaneously, Dr. Kerr realizes that it is beneficial for a child if her parents agree on the procedure (Capella University, n.d.). There is a need for a specialist to know when to accept defeat in such a situation.

First of all, the underlying cause for refusal plays a crucial role in the final decision and might help Dr. Kerr to convince Smiths to agree on vaccination. In many cases, the distrust towards the healthcare system, the government, or the lack of perceived autonomy are the main concerns (Tokish & Solanto, 2020). Group identity may also be a significant factor, significantly if the decision is influenced by religious views or the community in which anti-vaccination views are prevalent (Tokish & Solanto, 2020). As Smiths state that they use the internet search results as the basis for their decision, Dr. Kerr is facing a difficult choice of either accepting their point or referring them to additional evidence.

The format and validity of this reference are vital for a professional who plans to use it to convince people who are otherwise unfamiliar with the topic. Dr. Kerr clearly outlines the safety guidelines and establishes that the studies show no connection between vaccine components and autism. However, there is still room for the promotion of vaccines that are independent of the government organizations in case if the parents’ concerns are based on underlying mistrust. Dr. Kerr must present all the evidence against the common misconceptions but avoid scaring them into acceptance.

Decision-making Process

Online search is a regular source of misinformation, as the presented data is often unchecked by professionals. Elkin, Pullon, and Stubbe (2020) state that “websites with bias against vaccination are common,” where 43% of all results for “vaccination” contain misinformation (p. 2771). Many online sources that suggest parents decline vaccines state that the human body is inherently healthy and protected against diseases with mothers’ antibodies (Reich, 2020). This often comes from the fact that this decision makes parents feel that they are empowered to act solely upon their will and remain autonomous (Reich, 2020). However, it can be convincing for Dr. Kerr to draw a connection between vaccination and disease treatment, where parents are less inclined to put a doctor’s prescribed medication under scrutiny (Reich, 2020). A pediatrician’s task is to ensure that children are healthy, but there is a limit.

The decision remains in the parents’ hands (ethical principle of autonomy), and Dr. Kerr must know when to stop her attempts to convince them. When a specialist meets a person whose knowledge was distorted, it is vital to avoid crossing the boundaries between professional opinion and enforcing decisions (Conlin & Boness, 2019). Interventions that push patients into acceptance via fear and dramatization can backfire and instead encourage them to spread misinformation to combat the perceived intrusion into their personal decisions (Tokish & Solanto, 2020). While it might be alluring for a doctor to point out issues for the individual that might stem from the lack of complete vaccination, it might be seen as intimidation.


In conclusion, while vaccination is beneficial to a child and society as a whole, Dr. Kerr must remain mindful of the parents’ choices and avoid pressing the argument too far. In such a case, forcing the parents towards acceptance can have an opposite effect and increase their distrust in the healthcare system. Dr. Kerr can try to present additional evidence regarding the beneficial effects of vaccination and point out similarities in this procedure with a standard treatment where a doctor’s opinion is often more valued. However, as most of the evidence has already been stated, there might be a need for Dr. Kerr to accept the parents’ decision.

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This case study presents a valuable opportunity to assess the actions of a doctor in a difficult situation where the decision might be uncertain. As this issue continues to spread, there is a need to take mindful action against the occurrence of such incidents. An increasing number of parents who refuse vaccination of their children suggests that there is a need for U.S. healthcare organizations to promote this medical practice and combat misinformation. If the majority of outlets will be correct, it will curb the spread of misinformation.


Capella University. (n.d.). Ethical case studies – To vaccinate or not? Web.

Conlin, W. E., & Boness, C. L. (2019). Ethical considerations for addressing distorted beliefs in psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 56(4), 449-458. doi:10.1037/pst0000252

Elkin, L. E., Pullon, S. R., & Stubbe, M. H. (2020). ‘Should I vaccinate my child?’ comparing the displayed stances of vaccine information retrieved from Google, Facebook and YouTube. Vaccine, 38(13), 2771-2778. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2020.02.041

Reich, J. A. (2020). Vaccine refusal and pharmaceutical acquiescence: Parental control and ambivalence in managing children’s health. American Sociological Review, 85(1), 106-127. doi:10.1177/0003122419899604

Tokish, H., & Solanto, M. V. (2020). The problem of vaccination refusal: A review with guidance for pediatricians. Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 32(5), 683-693. doi:10.1097/mop.0000000000000937

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