Case for persuasion in parental informed consent to promote rational vaccine choices

Case for persuasion in parental informed consent to promote rational vaccine choices
Original Research
Jennifer O’Neill
Journal of Medical Ethics, 4 May 2020
There have been calls for mandatory vaccination legislation to be introduced into the UK in order to tackle the national and international rise of vaccine-preventable disease. While some countries have had some success associated with mandatory vaccination programmes, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) insist this is not a suitable option for the UK, a country which has seen historical opposition to vaccine mandates. There is a lack of comprehensive data to demonstrate a direct link between mandatory vaccination legislation and increased uptake. While there are examples whereby there has been an improvement, some studies suggest that comparable results can be obtained by strongly recommending vaccinations instead. The RCPCH insist that healthcare workers are ideally placed to engage and inform parents to make every interaction a ‘vaccine opportunity’. This paper calls for a principled, rational approach to interpretations of autonomy which underpin parental informed consent. MacLean’s concept of mutual persuasion could be a vehicle to ensuring parents are suitably informed of both the material risks associated with vaccine choices and to consider the rationality of their decisions, while ultimately upholding parental autonomy. It is argued that this, alongside infrastructural improvement, could create a more sustainable, long-term improvement in childhood vaccination rates in the UK than mandatory vaccination.

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