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Roland Pierik (General Legal Theory) and Marcel Verweij (Philosophy, Wageningen University) received funding from the NWO ZonMw for a doctoral research project on indirect vaccination.

Mothers who get themselves vaccinated to protect their newborns from whooping cough. The vaccination of boys against HPV to protect girls from cervical cancer. Both are examples of indirect vaccination. The vaccinated persons themselves are not part of the group most at risk, but by virtue of being vaccinated they make an important contribution to the protection of that group.

Ethical framework

Although bodies such as the WHO and the Health Council of the Netherlands increasingly make a point of encouraging indirect vaccination, not enough research has been done into the ethical plausibility and actual reception of such programmes of indirect vaccination. The proposal study lnducing immunity for the sake of others. Ethical analysis and justification of indirect vaccination strategies by Pierik and Verweij aims to fill this void.  

The researchers intend to investigate possibilities for establishing an ethical framework for indirect vaccination. Three forms of indirect vaccination will be covered: vaccination of mothers (for the benefit of their babies), vaccination of medical personnel (for the benefit of their patients) and vaccination as a matter of public health. Recommendations for targeted communication strategies should also emerge by the end of the study. These are especially important, given the growing resistance to vaccination.

The allocated research funds are intended for the appointment of a doctoral candidate at Wageningen University. This PhD project is the follow-up to a larger research project by Pierik and Verweij entitled Inducing Immunity: The legal regulation of childhood vaccination.


NWO ZonMw is the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development. The evaluation committee found the subject matter of the Inducing immunity project to be ‘highly relevant’.