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Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Professionals Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 12th, 2020

Introduction

The majority of the medical community has accepted the concept of vaccination as an effective tool in combating and controlling diseases. After the creation of the first vaccine by Edward Jenner in 1796, the world was made safer from many dangerous diseases, such as smallpox, poliomyelitis, malaria, and others (Cortes-Penfield, 2014). Yearly vaccinations are considered an effective way of controlling the outbreaks of many viral and infectious diseases, such as influenza. It is treatable, but a potentially dangerous disease as it is the number one cause of pneumonia. It is particularly threatening in older patients and young children.

Regular vaccines are used to immunize patients and prepare their systems against new stems of the virus. The effectiveness of this method is supported by numerous tests and scientific findings. However, due to the highly adaptive nature of influenza, no vaccine is perfect. Imperfections are associated with the perceived lack of effectiveness and various side effects associated with the treatment. This raises the question of whether or not immunization should be mandatory for healthcare professionals. The purpose of this paper is to examine the arguments and rhetoric devices used by both sides of the argument.

Summary of the Situation

As it stands, immunization against major diseases is mandatory for the majority of healthcare workers operating in the US. However, the debate regarding mandatory yearly immunizations against the flu is still ongoing. Right now, in most states, healthcare worker immunization is strictly voluntary, which results in less than 50% of doctors being immunized every year (Cortes-Penfield, 2014). The arguments are based on several important parameters, such as the effectiveness of the intervention, financial interest, side-effects, international practices, matters of personal freedom, and ethical concerns regarding the Hippocratic Oath. Although the majority of the populace, as well as leading healthcare organizations, seem to be in favor of mandatory vaccination, voices of concern are loud enough to slow down the initiative.

Argumentation

Both sides present various claims and arguments in order to support their views. The supporters of vaccination typically rely on scientific evidence from numerous researches and various controlled trials, as well as immunization practices in other countries. Cortes-Penfield (2014) supports the introduction of mandatory immunization as a new standard of care due to influenza and nosocomial infections, causing some of the highest amounts of morbidity during a season. In a hospital setting, healthcare workers are the ones most likely to contract influenza and spread it across the hospital, unless properly immunized. They use this logic in order to support the necessity of vaccination, as the Hippocratic Oath states that a physician is expected to do no harm (Cortes-Penfield, 2014).

The opponents of vaccination have some arguments against the procedure as well. Namely, they cite several researches that indicate yearly vaccination being inefficient at decreasing the number of registered influenza cases (Treanor, 2017), as well as making a popular argument that vaccination efforts, in general, are a hoax created by pharmaceutical companies (Cortes-Penfield, 2014). Other arguments are made for the dangers of the vaccines to newborns and elderly persons. However, those claims are largely unfounded, as the incidence of vaccine-related adverse reactions is rare and, in most cases, manageable (Cortes-Penfield, 2014).

Rhetorical Devices Used in the Argument

As both parties typically argue the effectiveness of vaccination rather than the morality of forcing physicians to undergo mandatory vaccination, the majority of the arguments that do not devolve into flinging insults utilize two rhetorical devices, namely the appeal to authority and the appeal to logic. The appeal to authority is used by both parties, which quote academic research journals in order to support their views. As academic research is considered the highest-rated evidence, it is typically used as a basis for the strongest arguments. The appeal to logic, on the other hand, is used to support arguments that are not reinforced by the academic literature. For example, the opponents of vaccination for doctors use logical constructs to convince their opponents that vaccination is a hoax invented by pharmaceutical companies. The proponents of vaccination use logical constructs to debunk said argument, pointing out the implausibility of it happening (Cortes-Penfield, 2014).

Interested Sides in the Public Debate

There are three interested parties in this debate – doctors, pharmacists, and patients. Doctors are interested in promoting patient safety. The majority of them are pro-mandatory vaccination and typically serve as experts in the public media. Pharmacists are also interested in promoting mandatory vaccinations, as it means steady contracts of vaccines. However, some pharmaceutical companies, namely those that produce treatments against influenza and other nosocomial infections, may feel disadvantaged by the reduced demand for their products as the result of effective vaccinations (Cortes-Penfield, 2014). The patients are namely interested in their wellbeing but lack the expertise to determine which side of the argument has more weight to it.

Cultural and Personal Biases

Cultural and personal biases have a significant influence on the argument. Some doctors oppose vaccination due to their religious beliefs. This is true for certain Muslim and Christian branches of faith and is a common trend in various sects and cults. Personal biases include suspicion towards official medical authorities, large corporations, the government, as well as distrust towards sources not backed by scientific evidence. Confirmation bias is one of the largest obstacles in media discourse, as both sides are capable of finding evidence that supports their claims without investigating the facts stating the contrary (Ekholm & Ford, 2015).

Logical Fallacies

When the discourse is not held in an academic manner, all kinds of argumentation fallacies are being used. The most frequently used one is argumentum ad hominem. Instead of addressing the points directly, the argument usually starts by belittling other peoples’ intelligence with the aim of reducing the credibility of their claims by attacking the person. Straw man arguments and “any sane man” kind of logical fallacies are also used in order to find rapport with the audience (Ekholm & Ford, 2015). The first ones are those arguments that develop the illusion of defeated position since the idea that is refuted is developed on the spot but not actually presented by the opponent. The second ones are those arguments that occur when the opponent’s sanity is questioned instead of the very claim. In addition to that, sane people can emphasize their madness to avoid the outcomes of the argument if they fail to prove their point of view. These fallacies are typically used in media and the press, which are not engaged in any academic discourses and are instead trying to sway the masses to their side through any means necessary.

Overall Strengths of the Arguments

Both sides of the argument provide academic resources in order to support their claims. While that is the case, the evidence supporting mandatory vaccination in healthcare workers has significantly more sources backing it up, while the evidence to the contrary is rare and, in most cases, addresses the frequency of vaccination rather than its necessity at large. Still, the presence of contradicting evidence indicates that drawbacks to vaccination do exist. A critical thinker should examine not only the presence of the evidence but also the strengths of the researches providing support to either argument. Some of the results may be subjected to criticism based on the methodology, data collection, evaluation, and conclusions.

References

Cortes-Penfield, N. (2014). Mandatory influenza vaccination for health care workers as the new standard of care: A matter of patient safety and nonmaleficent practice. American Journal of Public Health, 104(11), 2060-2065.

Ekholm, E. M & Ford, D. J. (2015). Rhetorical strategies implemented by the American medical association to identify roles within the interprofessional healthcare team. The Journal of BSN Honors Research, 8(1), 32-72.

Treanor, J. (2017). Flu vaccine – Too much of a good thing? The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 215(7), 1017-1019.

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IvyPanda. "Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Professionals." December 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mandatory-vaccination-of-healthcare-professionals/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Professionals." December 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mandatory-vaccination-of-healthcare-professionals/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Professionals'. 12 December.

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