Ethics of Required Immunizations

by bstre3 on February 17, 2014 - 10:02pm

If there is minimal sacrifice and an action you take will potentially benefit the majority of people, would you proceed with that action? What if, in order to get a job that you have worked towards, you were required to take this action otherwise you were immediately eliminated from that work setting? Does this seem fair? Many health professionals vary in their opinions on required influenza vaccinations. Some people view the required vaccination as a benefit to the medical setting with means to prevent the spread of the virus. However, other health professionals feel that it is a violation of their personal rights and do not agree with the annual mandatory vaccine. Many health care officials believe it to be much better that every worker in a health profession get the annual shot because it creates a safer environment for the patients. According to MD Alan R. Fleischman flu epidemics still occur each year and kill a significant amount of people and although the influenza shot does not insure immunity, it does prevent the likelihood of getting the virus and will diminish the likelihood of spreading it as well. (2013. p. 114) With consideration to the statistics that show the flu shot is beneficial to society as a whole, being required to have a flu shot while working in a health care setting is viewed as ethical, even if it violates the autonomy or beliefs of an individual. (Fleischman A. 2013. p. 114) But the question is, even if something is “ethically justified” by a society, is it still violating the freedoms a person has as an individual?

            The debate of required influenza shots for health care professionals includes various forms of socio-centric thinking. There is the socio-centric thinking that involves the tendency to place your own beliefs and opinions above everyone else’s. (Paul R., Elder L. 2009. p. 22) For example, if a person is extremely religious and does not believe in vaccinations and refuses to get one while working in a health care setting, they are placing their beliefs above the potential risk of affecting others. There is another type of socio-centric thinking that can be related to this situation that involves the tendency to blindly conform to group restrictions, (p.22) which may be the mindset of many people who feel their jobs will be threatened if they do not conform to what is expected of them. But as a health professional you have a duty of beneficence that includes maximizing benefits to patients and minimizing harms. This concept entails a health professional to put he or she at potential risk in order to protect the health of their patients. (Fleischman A. 2013. p. 115) Overall the influenza shot has not generally posed a threat to those who have it, therefore there is a constant push to make it mandatory to get an influenza shot while working in a health care setting. If a person truly disagrees with the requirement, is it ethically justified to violate their choices and autonomy? 



             Antommaria A. H. MD, & Fleischman A. R. MD (2013). Ethical Arguments Strong for Mandatory Vaccinations. Patients’ welfare is key. pp. 114-115. Retrieved from

            Paul R., & Elder L. (2009). Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools. CA. Foundation for Critical Thinking Press.


I am one of the first people who will argue for the right to do how you please with your own body, so I will begin by stating that I don't think it's ethical to force anyone to inject anything into their bodies that they haven't consented to. This applies especially to immunizations. If someone does not want these foreign substances in his or her body, it should not be forced upon him or her. However, I don't think it's wrong for any sort of group or organization to have requirements of its employees. If the requirement is that they be immunized, there is most likely a reason for this decision. In the medical field, doctors and nurses are constantly coming into contact with individuals whose immune systems are weakened. With this in mind, it makes sense that they would want to take all the precautions necessary to prevent these patients from coming into contact with a potentially deadly virus. Hospitals are not forcing people to get immunizations, they are simply saying they do not want employees who haven't done so. One might argue that his or her immune system is so strong that the virus would never penetrate through, so there is no reason to get the flu shot. I happen to be one of those people, to be honest. I've never gotten a flu shot and I have also never gotten the flu. However, this is also risky because it is possible to be a carrier without ever contracting the full illness. That is where the problem lies in the medical field, and that is why medical professionals should be immunized before coming into contact with patients.

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