Controversy and debate on vaccination

Published on
August 18, 2017

Several European countries face outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable infectious diseases, due to declining immunisation rates. Philosophers Marcel Verweij and Roland Pierik (University of Amsterdam) are working on a book on the regulation of vaccination, in connection to current and past advisory roles in the Health Council and for the World Health Organization.

Currently they are heavily involved in a societal debate on immunisation. Their most recent contribution is an op-ed in Dutch newspaper NRC, in which they argue that mandatory immunization against diseases like measles kan be justified if necessary to prevent an immanent outbreak.

Two earlier contributions were also raising a lot of response and discussion. In a (Dutch) ‘longread’ entitled ‘The uneasy reality of the anti-vaccination movement’ they analysed the rhetoric of certain anti-vaccination groups. These groups often use quasi scientific/biomedical language and appeal to incidental scientific findings as far as it supports their views, but do not generally accept the mores of critical reflection that is common in science.
In Trouw Pierik and Verweij argued that there is no empirical evidence that a shift to mandatory vaccination – as is happening now in Italy and France - will be counterproductive and raise a lot of protest and resistance. The national immunisation program in the Netherlands is currently fully voluntary, and vaccination rates are still very high, so at this point it may not be necessary to require parents to have their children immunised. Coverage is however slowly declining, and the debates that Pierik and Verweij are raising will shape the future of immunisation in the Netherlands.