International Conference to Tackle Ethical Controversies in Childhood Immunizations

Debates on vaccine development, availability and policy, and the rights of parents, physicians and children to be held at Children's.

Debates on vaccine development, availability and policy, and the rights of parents, physicians and children to be held at Children's.

The Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children’s Hospital, the nation’s first center dedicated solely to the study of research and health care for children, will host its second annual conference on July 14-15, 2006 in Seattle.

The conference will feature national experts leading discussions on vaccine policy, availability and research. Conference participants will offer viewpoints on issues ranging from a parent’s right not to immunize their child to a physician’s right to “fire” a non-immunized patient.

“We are inviting outstanding leaders in the field to look at the most controversial ethical topics surrounding the vaccination of children, vaccine development, vaccine policy and the balance between public health and individual preference,” said Doug Diekema, M.D., the center’s interim director.

With a focus on global and national issues, this conference will address many ethical questions related to immunizations such as:

  • Do “wealthy” nations have an ethical obligation to develop vaccines for diseases that occur primarily in developing nations and to fund vaccination programs for children of impoverished nations?
  • Is it appropriate to do human vaccine testing in developing nations and, if so, under what conditions?
  • How should priorities be set regarding the development of new vaccines?
  • How should vaccines be distributed in a crisis or shortage situation?
  • Should vaccination programs be government funded or market based?
  • Should parents be able to refuse vaccinations for their children?
  • How should health care providers respond to parents who are reluctant to vaccinate their children? What about those who refuse?
  • When does the community interest in public health justify restricting the freedom to choose regarding vaccination?
  • Are school immunization requirements too restrictive, too weak or appropriately written?

“Immunizations pose many challenging issues. The conference will encourage discussion and collaboration among vaccine experts, institutions, researchers, policy makers and health care providers,” said F. Bruder Stapleton, M.D., pediatrician-in-chief at Seattle Children’s Hospital and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine.

“As a result of these discussions we hope to increase awareness, understanding and tolerance of divergent views on the ethical and medical issues surrounding immunizations.”

For more information on the conference please visit the conference website.

Attendees and media may register for the conference online.

About the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics

Launched in December 2004 as a resource for patients, parents, health care providers and researchers, the center’s purpose is to:

  • Promote scholarship on ethical issues related to pediatric health services delivery, pediatrics research and genetics
  • Train the next generation of pediatricians and bioethicists about pediatric bioethics
  • Provide consultation and collaborative services to families, health care providers, researchers and policymakers about pediatric bioethics
  • Improve pediatric bioethics practices and policies on a national and international level

Delivering health care to children and involving children in research raises different questions than those related to adult health care. For example, the extent in which a child can participate in the decision-making for his or her health care varies with each child and each situation.

The relationship and communication that occur between a parent, health care provider or researcher, and a child are critical in assuring that the interests of the child are appropriately advocated.

Last year, Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Board of Trustees renamed the center in honor of retiring CEO Treuman Katz, to recognize his commitment to pediatric bioethics.

About Seattle Children’s

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Seattle Children’s has been delivering superior patient care while advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.