Written by Alberto Giubilini
This article was originally published on The Conversation
In the first four months of this year, around 1,500 cases of measles were reported in Italy. As a response to the outbreak, the Italian government introduced a law making 12 vaccinations mandatory for preschool and school-age children.
Parents will have to provide proof of vaccination when they enroll their children in nursery or preschool. In this respect, the Italian policy follows the example of vaccination policies in the US. But there’s one crucial difference: the Italian law doesn’t allow parents to opt out on the grounds of “conscientious objection”.
Unvaccinated school-age children, up to 16 years old, will still be able to enrol in school – but their parents will be fined. The fines range from €500 to €7,500 (£436 to £6,540).
I would argue that these measures are ethically justified, and other countries should follow Italy’s lead.
Undoubtedly, such measures are coercive. Most parents, even if they are opposed to vaccines, will have no choice but to vaccinate their children. But the fact that the new legislation is coercive does not make it ethically impermissible. In fact, it can be argued that many laws are coercive but nonetheless considered ethically acceptable by most people.
To remain in the context of public health, isolation and quarantine are two examples of coercive measures that are sometimes used in public health emergencies. Most people would think that, in many cases, it is acceptable to quarantine or isolate people in order to protect the community from infectious diseases.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.