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Why vaccination should be mandatory for kids

vaccine

– Original post on metronews.ca here

Ready for your daily dose of controversy? I believe strongly in childhood vaccinations. Wait, I’m not done. I believe they should be mandatory.

I can feel thousands of readers bristling right now. This is a sensitive topic because most of us love our children, and most of us want what is best for them. But that doesn’t mean we are always acting in their best interest. And that’s when the government should step in.

Here’s why: We need a 95 per cent vaccination rate for herd immunity to protect against contagious diseases, and according to UNICEF, Canada’s rate hovers around 84 per cent. So until we raise the immunization rates, we are all at risk.

If you think the government has no right to meddle in how we care for our children, you’re wrong. It meddles every day, and rightly so.

It intervenes when children are raised in filthy homes, allowed to ride in cars without seatbelts, left unattended at home, or refused life-saving medical treatment. Religion, culture and ideology do not trump these laws.

Why is it different when parents say “no” to childhood vaccines?

Maybe because it was less of an issue a decade ago. Vaccination rates are declining, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, due in part to a growing culture of distrust in big pharma and regulatory agencies. What this means is we need better education campaigns and more transparency into vaccine safety and oversight.

The reality is we’ve been inoculating against deadly diseases for more than 200 years, and the science is well-established: Vaccines are safe and a crucial component of childhood and community health. Ingredients undergo rigorous testing and serious reactions — which are incredibly rare — are highly monitored.

The diseases we vaccinate against can be fatal — they kill hundreds of thousands of children in developing countries every year. And they can return when vaccination rates decline. That means the benefits of vaccines by far outweigh the risks.

So why do we allow parents to gamble with kids’ lives — their own kids, or the lives of newborns and other peoples’ children who can’t be immunized for health reasons — by refusing vaccinations? Especially when the science is so clear, and the dangers so terrible?

This is not a debate about individual rights versus public health, because kids are not extensions of us — they are individuals with their own rights.

The debate is where to draw the line when it comes to parental freedom of choice.

Parenthood, in the wise words of my father, is not a right but a privilege, and that’s an important distinction. It’s not our “right” to make any choice we want for our kids, it’s our duty to make wise ones, ones that set them on the best path.

That’s why when a parent makes a choice on behalf of the child that puts that child or others at serious risk, regardless of their intentions, society should step in.

Is this dangerous government overreach? Slovenia and Croatia don’t think so. Both countries have made vaccinations mandatory for nine specific diseases.

Croatia’s Constitutional Court said it best when it ruled “the child’s right to health is more than the rights of parents to the (wrong) choice.”

That country’s decision to overrule parental freedom for the sake of community well-being means that diphtheria, whooping cough and measles have been eradicated there.

In fact, 14 European countries have at least one mandatory vaccination included in their program.

So what would happen if Canada also imposed mandatory vaccinations? Many parents would be up in arms. But … so what?

We live in a highly relativistic society and tend to wring our hands endlessly over respect for other people’s points of view, even when those views are contrarian. But when people choose to reject clear scientific evidence in favour of their own misguided beliefs, the hand-wringing should stop.

Especially when the well-being of children is involved.

 

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