The manner in which providers respond to parental concerns about the recommended childhood vaccination schedule is an area of increasing interest in pediatrics and medical ethics. Like many aspects of vaccination policy and practice, evaluating the reactions of providers to parental vaccine hesitancy--including the potential dismissal of such families from their practices--requires an appreciation of the twin character of vaccination as both a public health program as well as an individual preventive intervention. Accordingly, the ethics of vaccination combine many aspects of traditional medical ethics, such as respect for patient autonomy, the primacy of informed consent, and concern for the doctor-patient relationship, with the relatively newer discourse of public health ethics, one that directs particular attention to the health of populations and the pursuit of social justice. When parents are hesitant about vaccination for their children, providers may face a significant challenge reconciling their commitment to the health of those children, their respect for the perspectives of parents, and their interest in the health of their other patients and their communities. The tensions and potential conflicts among these considerations help to explain why provider responses to vaccine hesitancy have emerged as a frequent topic of discussion among practitioners, public health advocates, and ethicists alike.
Keywords: decision-making; immunization; immunization schedule; parents; pediatrics; policy; vaccination.