Preserving Civility in Vaccine Policy Discourse A Way Forward
Vaccine policy-making meetings, advisory committees, and legislative hearings at the local, state, and national levels have become increasingly uncivil. Many who object to vaccines have resorted to shouting, threats, and other disruptive behaviors. These behaviors erode the premise of civil society and undermine the goals of most vaccine-hesitant persons, who are thoughtful and law abiding. Civil skepticism in public discussions about vaccine policy can lead to productive discussion. The science of vaccinology, like all science, has uncertainties; applying science in policy entails value judgments, and people can disagree on the implications of scientific evidence. Skepticism reminds all individuals that intellectual humility is important and reinforces the value of democratic debate and transparent procedure.
Good Public Health Policy
Good public health vaccine policy results from the interaction between science and values. Good science is the foundation for good policy. But science is complex, the evidence is sometimes conflicting, and absolute certainty is elusive. Transparent presentation of the science is imperative to sustain public confidence, requiring open discussion of how best to balance protection of public health with individual freedom. All public health policies ultimately depend on a broad societal consensus for support. Most people still support immunizations, but a vocal and disruptive group of vaccine skeptics have adopted uncivil tactics, thereby disrupting and bypassing the healthy, transparent debate and democratic procedure of US vaccine policy. These skeptics threaten individual and public health, as well as civil engagement…
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