Childhood Vaccination Against Seasonal Influenza to Reduce the Overall Burden of Disease: Ethical Perspectives

Kyriakos Martakis*, Kruthika Thangavelu, Peter Schroeder-Baeck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction Childhood immunisation against seasonal influenza promises to reduce the burden of disease through herd immunity. The option of intranasal vaccination seemed to offer a more acceptable vaccination for children, as they are perceived to be less invasive. Yet, intranasal vaccines have been recently proven not to be as effective as presumed. In Germany, contradictory recommendations of the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) first, to use and then, in October 2016, not use these vaccines have been issued for the 2016-2017 season, whereas recommendations not to use them were already issued in the USA (CDC, ACIP). This controversy spurs the discussion of immunisation programmes for children again. Despite studies discussing the effectiveness of a comprehensive immunisation programme targeting children also in the German and wider European context, an accompanying ethical discussion is missing.

Methodology We discuss several policy options from different key ethical perspectives that are widely used in public health: if seasonal influenza vaccination should be intensively offered to or even made mandatory for children to decrease the societal burden of the disease.

Results Various ethical perspectives reflect the question how to balance individual autonomy, personal benefit and population benefit differently.

Discussion A convincing justification for suggestions on immunisation policies has to balance norms anchored in different ethical theories. There are good reasons to offer immunisation programmes against seasonal influenza to children, using a voluntary, possibly incentive-based approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E121-E126
Number of pages6
JournalDas Gesundheitswesen
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • autonomy
  • vaccination
  • children
  • chronic diseases
  • influenza
  • ethics

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