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Keywords:

  • AH1N1;
  • Canada;
  • ethical values;
  • ethics;
  • lay perceptions;
  • vaccination

Abstract

Background

Pandemic influenza ethics frameworks are based on respect of values and principles such as regard for autonomy, responsibility, transparency, solidarity and social justice. However, very few studies have addressed the way in which the general population views these moral norms.

Objectives

(i) To analyse the receptiveness of the population of French-speaking Quebecers to certain ethical principles promoted by public health authorities during the AH1N1 vaccination campaign. (ii) To add to the limited number of empirical studies that examine the population's perception of ethical values.

Design

Eight months after the end of the AH1N1 vaccination campaign in the Province of Quebec (Canada), 100 French-speaking Quebecers were assembled in ten focus groups. Discussions focussed on the level of respect shown by public health authorities for individual autonomy, the limits of appeals for solidarity, the balance between vaccination efficiency and social justice towards non-prioritized subpopulations, vaccination as a demonstration of civic duty and social responsibility.

Results

The population acknowledged a high level of individual responsibility towards family members and agreed to vaccination to protect children and ageing parents. However, the concepts of civic duty and solidarity did not elucidate unanimous support, despite the fact that social justice stood out as a dominant value of public morals.

Conclusion

The ethical principles promoted in influenza pandemic ethics frameworks are subject to reinterpretation by the population. An ethic of public health must consider their understanding of the fundamental values that legitimize mass vaccination.