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No Jab, No Pay and vaccine refusal in Australia: the jury is out

Euzebiusz Jamrozik
Med J Aust 2017; 207 (9): 407. || doi: 10.5694/mja17.00479

While vaccine refusal is but one contributor among several to failures of vaccine-preventable disease control, as stated by Beard and colleagues,1 there are important ethical aspects of vaccine refusal. Intentionally opting out of vaccination imposes risks on others, and policies allowing some to opt out weigh their freedom to do so against the rights of others not to be harmed by vaccine-preventable diseases.2 In particular, people who cannot be safely vaccinated (eg, infants) or maintain immunity (eg, the immunosuppressed) are at increased risk of severe disease — including death — and depend on the immunity of others.2 It is true that herd immunity has no “magic threshold”:1 even with high population vaccination levels, severe harm may be caused when just one unvaccinated person has contact with an infectious person and then a vulnerable person. The death of an immunosuppressed woman from measles pneumonitis in the state of Washington, United States, in 2015 is a case in point.3

  • Euzebiusz Jamrozik1,2

  • 1 Monash Bioethics Centre, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2 Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, VIC

Correspondence: zeb.jamrozik@monash.edu

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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