What do conscientious objectors to vaccination owe the community?

Monday 6 Feb 2017

A Charles Sturt University (CSU) philosopher argues that conscientious objectors to immunisation should make an appropriate contribution to society in lieu of being vaccinated.

CSU Associate Professor Steve Clarke, from CSU's School of Humanities and Social Sciences, has been researching issues of conscience and conscientious objection in healthcare.

"People refuse to be immunised for a variety of reasons including the belief that vaccines cause health problems, are not effective, or are manufactured in unsafe ways," Professor Clarke said.

"My research specifically looks at people who refuse vaccination on conscientious grounds, that is, for religious, moral or philosophical reasons."

Professor Clarke argues that people conscientiously objecting to vaccination should supply evidence of their sincerity.

"Current practices don't generally require Australians to state the reasons for their objection," he said.

"They just have to fill out a form and have it signed by a practitioner to certify a healthcare professional has discussed the benefits of immunisation with them.

"There's also a case for conscientious objectors to vaccinations to make a commensurate contribution to society, in many cases this may also function as a demonstration of sincerity.

If there are many conscientious objectors to a particular vaccine, then herd immunity is threatened and outbreaks of disease can follow.

"Objectors could make a financial contribution to the state that reflects the degree of risk imposed on the community, either via a penalty or lack of access to a benefit.

"The recently implemented Australian 'No Jab No Pay' policy involves withholding benefits to conscientious objectors who refuse to have their children vaccinated and is consistent with my approach to conscientious objection to vaccination."

Professor Clarke has co-authored the paper 'Conscientious objection to vaccination' published online in the journal, Bioethics.

His research is supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project grant, 'Conscience and Conscientious Objection in Health Care'.


Media contact: Ms Emily Malone and Ms Fiona Halloran, (02) 6933 2069

Media Note:
CSU Associate Professor Steve Clarke is available for interview by telephone. Contact CSU Media.