Linking public health and personal health care
On the first Thursday of every month you try to join a group of parents whose children attend the local primary school. At one particular meeting, a debate begins about a vaccine that is now available for children under ten years of age. One mother declares that as there are potential side effects and risks, she will not be allowing her child to be vaccinated. This is countered by someone else who says that she has a social responsibility to have her child vaccinated because vaccination is a social good that not only helps prevent her child from getting the disease, but helps to limit its spread to the wider population. Therefore the potential benefits outweigh the possible risks.
One of the fathers present is concerned that as their family GP no longer bulkbills, there will be a high cost to the consumer, particularly for his family with three children under ten. This prompts another person to suggest that the vaccine should be provided free by the Commonwealth Government and organised through local schools. This will ensure that everyone is covered and that no-one has to miss out because of their economic circumstances.
How should a new vaccine be made available? Is prevention a matter of individual choice, or does your social responsibility override such a decision? Should the government pay the cost of vaccinating whole sections of a population if it is known that the disease will only affect a small number of children each year?