Faculty Scholars Program

Douglas John Opel, MD, MPH

Class of 2018
  • Associate Professor of Pediatrics
University of Washington School of Medicine
Scholar Project

Douglas J. Opel is a general pediatrician and Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is also Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington School of Medicine; Associate Director of the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute; and Director of Clinical Ethics at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics.

Dr. Opel’s research interests include provider-parent communication, medical decision-making, and public health ethics. Since 2011, he has received funding from the NIH to identify effective communication strategies for use with parents who are hesitant to accept vaccines for their child. Dr. Opel has published articles on vaccine policy, pediatric ethics, and public health in several medical and bioethics journals, including New England Journal of Medicine, Pediatrics, JAMA Pediatrics, American Journal of Public Health, British Medical Journal, and Hastings Center Report.

For more information, visit: https://www.seattlechildrens.org/directory/douglas-j-opel/ 

When Parents Refuse or Delay Childhood Vaccines: Implications for Shared Decision-Making

Grant Cycle: 2014-2015

Although more parents are refusing or delaying vaccines for their child, continued widespread use of vaccines is critical to maintain community immunity and protect the public from childhood infectious diseases. At the heart of vaccine refusal is an old tension between the common good and individual choice, but there is little consensus on how to navigate this tension in vaccine practice and policy. Should pediatric providers respect a parent’s refusal or seek a compromise by encouraging some vaccines over others? Or should they take a stronger stance? Similarly, should school vaccine policies allow parents to opt their children out of required vaccines, or should these exemptions be removed altogether? The overall goal of this project is to evaluate the appropriateness of current practice and policy strategies in the childhood vaccine context, such as the use of shared decision-making and opt-outs, in order to develop a new approach to parental refusal of vaccines that is ethically defensible, preserves parental trust in vaccines, and protects public health.


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