Should vaccines be mandatory?

Some doctors are calling for mandatory vaccinations to counteract the growing anti-vaxxer trend. The trend has health officials worried since diseases like measles and mumps are having a resurgence. Opponents of mandatory vaccines distrust the medical establishment and worry vaccines might harm children. Despite the worries, the vast majority of scientific evidence shows vaccines are extremely safe and effective. Should they be mandatory?

PERSPECTIVES

There are many reasons why a parent would choose against vaccinating their child -- it's not the government's place to tell them what to do.

It is a news media-driven misperception that parents who claim philosophical or religious exemptions are uneducated or misinformed. Most parents who individualize the vaccine schedule are actively educating themselves, continually assessing their family's specific health needs, and doing everything they can to keep their children safe and healthy.

Unlike in the United Arab Emirates, in America we believe parents are capable of making their own decisions about their children's health. We believe in freedom of choice. This freedom of choice extends to when -- and even whether -- parents vaccinate their kids.

MORE: Parents deserve to have a choice about vaccination

Public health officials say vaccinations should not be seen or treated as a choice. The science is solid and settled. Vaccinations prevent outbreaks of dangerous diseases and save lives. Keeping vaccinations away from a child is unconscionable -- without exaggeration, they could die. 

There is simply no reason vaccinations should be treated differently than any other form of medical care, and they must be protected within the same framework that has been created for child protection and against medical neglect. There are many ethically gray areas of medicine, but this is not one. Our laws must unambiguously and without loopholes reflect this, and there cannot be conflicting standards of child protection based on race, wealth, and education. By continuing to allow exceptions, we are fueling the misconception that vaccinations are an option, a choice, a subjective topic about which people can have different opinions that ought to be respected, when in fact all of the data proves they are not. Enacting a policy that is consistent with the science would provide clarity for the parents -- the majority of whom are loving caretakers trying to do the right thing. We are failing our society by creating unequal standards of parenting, and worse, we are failing our children by not protecting their right to be vaccinated against deadly, preventable diseases. Competent parenting must include fully immunizing all children according to the medical standard of care.

MORE: We can't convince anti-vaxxers of science; we need to mandate vaccination

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