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, MD, MPH is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is also Director of the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. He practices as a general pediatrician at the University of Washington Medical Center.

Dr. Opel has been continuously funded by the NIH since 2011 to identify effective vaccine communication strategies for use with parents. He has also received funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to improve implementation of shared decision-making in pediatrics. His research interests include provider-parent communication, medical decision-making, and public health ethics, with a primary goal of his research to improve child health by optimizing pediatric decision-making and the provider-parent relationship. Dr. Opel has published articles on pediatric and bioethical issues in major journals, including New England Journal of Medicine, Health Affairs, American Journal of Public Health, British Medical Journal, Lancet and Hastings Center Report.    

For more information, visit: https://www.peds.uw.edu/user/1125 

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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