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No jab? Make an appropriate contribution to society instead: paper

Conscientious objectors to immunisation should make a commensurate contribution to society to account for the risk their decision imposes to the community, an Australian philosopher has argued.

Associate professor Steve Clarke, from Charles Sturt University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, co-authored the paper 'Conscientious objection to vaccination', published online in Bioethics, which explored whether people should be entitled to conscientiously object to vaccination against contagious diseases and if so, to what constraints or requirements should the decision be subject.

Clarke and his co-authors said there is a case for conscientious objectors to make a commensurate contribution to society.

"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,” he said.

Clarke said the recently implemented Australian No Jab, No Pay policy, which involves withholding benefits to conscientious objectors who refuse to have their children vaccinated, is consistent with this approach.

The authors of the paper also suggested that the contribution will depend on the severity of the relevant disease, its morbidity and the likelihood that vaccine refusal will lead to harm.

“In particular, the contribution required will depend on whether the rate of conscientious objection in a given population threatens herd immunity to the disease in question,” the paper read.

The paper also argued 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," Clarke 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.”

He added a contribution to society may also function as a demonstration of sincerity.

Nursing Review spoke with Clarke about the type of evidence conscientious objectors should supply and the ways the approach may decrease the health risks associated with conscientious objection.

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