Whether to vaccinate a child or not should be an educated decision left to parents. However, when doctors are getting paid to be the ones educating parents, it creates an ethical conundrum.
Medicaid is reimbursing providers for “vaccine counseling” to parents in the hopes of increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates among children, the Daily Caller reported. Because surveys suggest parents are more likely to listen to their own doctors than public health officials, critics believe this is coercive.
This program, instituted by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would have included all patients had the Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra not stepped in. Becerra was concerned about the possibility of fraud and the lack of oversight in the program.
Proponents see this as a way to compensate healthcare providers who are likely being bombarded with questions already. Besides Becerra’s concerns, many argue that it’s unethical for doctors to push the use of certain drugs or medical devices given their position of authority in the minds of their patients.
Still, Becerra’s decision has angered President Joe Biden’s health officials and put Becerra on the outs with them. They contend that parents hearing the advice from their children’s doctors are more likely to consent to having their children vaccinated, which they see as a good thing.
As it is, only one-fifth of American children aged 5-11 are fully vaccinated. The 12-17 demographic is higher with 55% compliance, but overall, children 17 and under are the least likely group to be fully inoculated.
What’s often left out of the discussion is that children are also the least likely to die from the coronavirus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 254 deaths in children aged 5-11 and 572 deaths between ages 12 and 17.
Since doctors are used to answering questions, there’s no good reason to compensate them for speaking about one specific treatment unless the aim is to have them talk more people into it. There are serious ethical concerns with this policy, but it seems Becerra is facing backlash for acknowledging them.