Challenging Issue
You have been called in as a public-health ethics consultant for a case at the local hospital. This is part of your position in a new state agency, committed to increasing public health. You have been asked to provide a public health perspective on a number of cases. Here is the first of those cases:
A nine-month-old boy is ready be released after a bout with meningitis. However, his doctor does not release him because he has not been vaccinated against any illnesses (nor have his siblings). His mother refuses to vaccinate any of her children, and thus the doctor refuses to release the child.
At the hospital, you find four people waiting to speak with you, parents May and Jon, grandfather Zhang Xioa, and Dr. Krysa Stroot.
May’s Transcript
Hi, I’m May, Yu’s mom. I sure hope you can help me convince that doctor I have the right to refuse those vaccines. We have 3 kids; Chen is 4, Ming is 6, and Yu is just 9 months old. He’s doing fine now and should be released to go home as soon as possible!
None of my children have been vaccinated and they aren’t going to be. Yu is going to be just fine. They don’t even have a meningitis vaccine for babies. And the other vaccines would have caused a lot more problems.
When we were kids, my brother got one of those shots and then he developed a swollen knee because of it. And he’s limped ever since. He couldn’t be in sports and always looked a little weird. All throughout school, he was teased. I don’t want my kids to have to live like that just ‘cuz of a vaccine. My friend Shellie says vaccines can cause all sorts of stuff, like autism.
I know my parents think it’s because of my religion, but it’s not. Tell that doctor that these are my kids and I can make my own decisions regarding their health.
I will not vaccinate them.

Jon’s Transcript

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Hello there. I’m Jon, Yu’s dad. I really don’t understand why you were brought in to talk with us. Like May says, we have the right to make medical decisions for our kids.

I think vaccines are generally OK…but May is really against them so I’ll go along with her. Family peace is my motto! What harm can it be? Ming’s 6 and he hasn’t even gotten any of those diseases anyway. Neither has Chen.

Week 2 Zhang Xiao Transcript

Hello, my name is Zhang Xiao. Thank you so much for coming. I really hope you can help our daughter realize that what’s she’s doing is wrong, just wrong. Yu could die because of her!

Our children receive all of the required vaccines right on schedule. Our son, Yapeng never had anything happen to him because of them. Yes, he did end up with a limp after his knee got infected, but it had nothing to do with the vaccine, we’re sure of it. We’ve told May over and over, but she just won’t listen to the facts.

You know, May became an evangelical a few years ago, just before Ming was born. I think that’s why she doesn’t like vaccines. She also homeschools our grandkids. They should be in school!

Xiè xiè nín de bāng zhù. Thank you for your help.

Dr. Stroot’s Transcript
Dr. Stroot: I’m so glad you are here to help. I’m Dr. Krysa Stroot.
These parents aren’t thinking straight! All children should be vaccinated according to schedule. I will not release Yu until he is caught up on the vaccines. I am going to put an order in his chart to do so.
I just wish I could order the other children vaccinated as well. Ming and Chen deserve to be healthy, too.
So many parents are misinformed about vaccines. Typically, children’s vaccines have very few risks associated with them, especially when you consider the alternative of contracting the illnesses they can prevent. I’m sure you know the statistics.
[On screen text] Vaccines available in the U.S. can stop: adenovirus, anthrax, diphtheria, hepatitis a, hepatitis b, haemophilus influenzae type b (HIB), human papillomavirus (HPV), seasonal influenza (flu), Japanese encephalitis, measles, meningococcal (meningitis), mumps, pertussis, pneumococcal pneumonia), polio, rabies, rotavirus, rubella, shingles, smallpox, tetanus, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, varicella, yellow fever.
Dr. Stroot: You’ll make sure Yu gets vaccinated, right? It’s the only good choice to make.

After speaking with everyone, what would you do and how would you respond to the underlying concerns on all sides?
Your paper should be typed, double-spaced, and should be three to four pages long.

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