Mandatory Vaccines: A Battle Between Health and Rights

Vaccines have been proven to prevent deadly diseases such as polio, measles, and diphtheria. So why are so many parents taking a deadly risk and not vaccinating their children?

Refusal to wear a seatbelt is considered taboo in today’s society, so why is it okay to opt out of vaccinating children? It is not exactly easy to buy into false information that says seat belts are a danger to our society. In fact if someone heard this, they would probably think it was insane! We all know, seatbelts save lives. Why are vaccines any different, they also save lives.

As of right now in Ohio, exemptions for vaccines are made for philosophical, religious, and medical reasons. But, in California exemptions can only be made for medical reasons. Which many argue, is a step in the right direction for disease prevention. Those who are against mandatory vaccinations commonly make the following two arguments. First, mandating vaccines takes away necessary freedoms for people in the United States. Second, children who are not vaccinated cause little harm to the community. As many people know, these claims are false and endanger those who cannot be vaccinated.

The United States is proudly referred to as the land of the free, correct? Well, some argue that mandating vaccines takes away fundamental rights of parents. Fortunately for the rest of the population in America, vaccines are regulated and many states have made them mandatory regardless of philosophical or religious beliefs. Lawmakers expect to see even more states that would make vaccines completely mandatory, except in medical situations. In fact, Annakarian De La Torre-Fennell, in McGeorge Law Review explains that mandating vaccines actually does not take away fundamental rights. She states, “The United States Supreme Court held that there are no constitutional requirements for religious exemptions because the freedom “to practice religion does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease . . .” There we have it, in a ruling by the Supreme Court mandatory vaccines actually do not threaten American freedom. But, they do ensure the safety of all American citizens, even those who cannot be vaccinated.

The second argument states children who are not vaccinated cause no harm to the community. If this were true, then vaccines would not be necessary! Actually, because of recent lack of vaccinations, the CDC has reported nearly 600 cases of the measles in the United States just in 2014. Look back to 2012 and there were fewer than 100 cases. This statistic provided by the CDC should have parents frantic to vaccinate their children. Author, André Picard explains in a Globe and Mail article that, “[h]istory tells us that when children start dying, mass vaccinations tend to happen, even in cloistered communities”. The measles and other diseases are becoming more and more prevalent in America today. And looking at the declining vaccination rates, the reason for these outbreaks are obvious.

Many parents are choosing to take the risk and not vaccinate their children because false claims have led them to believe that vaccines are dangerous. Andrew Wakefield was a doctor that published a famous fraudulent study, which concluded the measles vaccine caused autism. Many parents were sent into frenzy and still chose to believe this false information even after Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine as a result of the study. Celebrities such as Jim Carrey endorse the idea that vaccines are a danger to the community. However, Jim Carrey did not attend college and especially does not have a degree in medicine that would qualify him to make such claims against vaccines.

Many children are forced to rely on herd immunity to protect them from diseases. Herd immunity is when the majority of the population is vaccinated against an illness, so those who cannot be vaccinated are still protected. People who have compromised immune systems or have an allergy to a vaccine do not have the privilege of being vaccinated, like most children. As almost anyone who has attended grade school knows, school settings allow diseases to spread quickly. When stuffing about thirty children into one room, odds are if one child is sick many others will be sick soon. The same trend occurs in communities that are impacted by an outbreak. Diseases tend to spread very quickly through communities. Picard provides an example of this as he explains, “[e]arlier this year there was a large outbreak of measles in Brooklyn, N.Y., specifically in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community where vaccination is shunned. It started with a seven-year-old boy who had travelled to Britain, and came back with the illness…” This is yet another reason why mandatory vaccines are so important to society.

As we move forward and new laws are put into place that mandate vaccines for all children, we must keep in mind that lawmakers are not trying to take away freedoms but ensure the health of all people. They are trying to make the community safe for all people including those who cannot be vaccinated. Much like seatbelt laws, mandatory vaccines are a small preventative step to take to ensure the safety of entire the community.

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