Vaccinating children has become an integrated part of modern medicine in the United States and around the world. Medical professionals have spent years trying to reduce disease epidemics and vaccinating children is a major part of that fight. The American Academy of Pediatricians (2009) stated “Today, most children in the United States lead much healthier lives and parents live with much less anxiety and worry over infections during childhood. Immunizations are one of the success stories of modern medicine” (p. 2). Parents have a moral obligation to protect their children and keep them safe. They also have a social responsibility to protect the global population for generations to come. If a parent refuses to vaccinate their children, it is the duty of the government to require them to vaccinate them for the safety and protection of the child and the greater population.
There was once a time in our countries history when it would have been unimaginable for a parent to believe someday we would be able to protect our children from infectious diseases with immunizations. If we look back at the history of infectious disease, you can see the unimaginable number of children that were affected by infectious diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics (2009) indicated that “there was a time when diphtheria was one of the most feared childhood diseases, claiming more than 10,000 lives a year in the United States during the 1920s. In the 1940s and 1950s, polio paralyzed and even killed children by the thousands. At one point in time, the measles affected nearly a half-million US children every year. Almost everyone in the United States got it at some point during childhood—and it sometimes caused complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis” (p. 1). We should continue to move forward with our history and advancements in medicine. By allowing parents to chance to allow diseases back into our society, we take a step back, closer to the time when 10,000 died every year.
There are two major arguments that are used to state that parents should not be required to have their children vaccinated against infectious diseases. The most common reason that parents give is the argument created by Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Dr. Wakefield was a British doctor who created an international panic in 1998 when he stated that there was a link between vaccinations and autism disorders. Lauren Cox from ABC (2010) news alleges that “When the public got word of Wakefield’s work, worried parents skipped vaccines, and the percentage of children who were not vaccinated in the United States rose from 0.77 percent in 1997 to 2.1 percent in 2000, according to an article by Dr. Michael Smith in the journal Pediatrics” (p. 20). There was even a reported increase in measles outbreaks related to the decrease in vaccinations after Dr. Wakefield’s study.
There are other Doctors out there that agree with Dr. Wakefield. In an article from PBS Sal Gentile (2010) quoted Dr. Mayer Einstein who said ““I think there is a direct link between autism and vaccines,” Although Dr. Mayer Eisenstein has been sued by parents claiming his policies harmed their children. She stated that “The bottom line is all vaccines cause neurological damage””(p.5). The medical community does not side with the few doctors who have come out in support of Dr. Wakefield. The medical community continues to fight for the vaccination of children.
After Dr. Wakefield released his work it was highly criticized by the medical community. In 2010 although Alice Park (2010) reported “it took nearly six months the General Medical Council (GMC) in the U.K. has pulled Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s license to practice medicine in the United Kingdom” (p.1). Dr. Wakefield lost his license and the General Medical Council was quoted by Sal Genitile (2010) as “saying he had “abused his position of trust” and “brought the medical profession into disrepute,” according to The Telegraph. The council called Wakefield “dishonest,” “misleading,” and “irresponsible.” (p. 7). Most people would not take medical advice from a medical professional who lost their license. I know I sure wouldn’t.
There is another piece of medical information that many have used to argue the relationship between vaccinations and autism disorders. Although Wakefield’s original hypothesis did not mention mercury as a contributor to autism, a concern also arose over whether a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal found in other vaccines cause autism. Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used to prevent contamination of multidose vials of vaccines. The American Center for Disease Control and prevention (2015) states “Research shows that thimerosal does not cause ASD. In fact, a 2004 scientific review by the IOM concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.” Since 2003, there have been nine CDC-funded or conducted studies that have found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and ASD, as well as no link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and ASD in children” (p.1).
In addition to government agencies looking into and providing scientific proof that vaccinations do not correlate or cause autism disorders some politicians took a stance on the issue like Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California who “took precautions with several other governors banned mercury from childhood vaccines in 2004. But autism rates have only increased since then” (Cox, 2010, p.20), So to all the naysayers out there who would argue that the relationship between vaccinations and autism disorders gives justification to avoid having your child vaccinated. Look at the facts and the source of the facts. Are the creditable and reliable?
The second major argument used for reasoning against mandatory vaccination of children is the constitutional ability of the government to require vaccinations be given to children. Many people believe that the government is over stepping its boundaries and interfering with individuals’ rights of freedom of privacy as guaranteed to all citizens in the fourteenth amendment. This theory was taken to court and issues involving mandatory vaccinations have been discussed in three well known Supreme Court cases. In the 1905 case Jacobson v. Massachusetts, “the Supreme Court upheld the authority of the states to enforce mandatory vaccination laws under the police power of the states. In the opinion, Justice John Marshall Harlan explained that personal liberties might be suspended in cases where the interest of the “common good” of the community are of paramount importance” (Beltz, 2015, p. 2). In this case the supreme courts ruled that the individual rights of some might have to be put aside for the common good. The common good of the people in this specific case is the possibility of epidemics from failure to vaccinate against infectious diseases that are preventable by vaccinations.
Then in the 1922 case Zucht v. King the court ruled “that a school system could refuse admission to a student who did not meet vaccination requirements, and that this would not be in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause for singling out a particular class of individuals” (Beltz, 2015, p. 3). The Supreme court goes even further in 1944, in the case Prince v. Massachusetts. In this case “the Court held that states may require vaccination regardless of a parent’s religious objection, stating that, “the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.” This case made it clear that religious exemptions offered by states are elective, rather than mandated by the First Amendment’s right to free exercise of religion” (Beltz, 2015, p. 4). Once again, the supreme court stood with the rights of all people by stating that freedom of religion does not enable a parent to risk the infection of an entire community due to their religious beliefs. The good of the whole outweighs the rights of a few. This decision was held up in all three cases that went to the United States Supreme Court. The judges believed that matters pertaining to the overall wellbeing of the population as a whole should be considered when making decisions that could affect the whole population.
People can make a case against the government becoming involved in their personal day to day life and say it is an invasion of privacy. It is not an invasion of privacy for the government to step in when the good of the whole needs protecting. This logic not only applies to mandatory vaccinations, but you can apply it regulations for getting a driver’s license. It is for the good of the whole country to require a driver to pas a training course or a test to operate a vehicle on the road. If there was no standard in place to regulate and enforce this regulation we would be worried even more every day about getting behind the wheel of the car. Mandating every child be vaccinated is driven by the same principle. We shouldn’t have to worry about the people around us and if they are carrying an infectious disease and can transport it to us or our families.
All fifty states have an immunization requirement for children before they can start school to help avoid an outbreak from accruing. Vaccinations do not always prevent the contraction of the infectious disease, but I can make the infection less damaging and dangerous to the child. I personally remember before I started preschool I had to cancel my birthday party because I had contracted the Chicken Pox. As a child I was devastated, I still remember having socks taped to my hands to prevent me from scratching. I don’t remember much about the time I had chicken pox but what is most vivid in my mind is the discussion about how I got them. You see I got chicken pox because my aunt decided not to vaccinate her children and one of them contracted them first. Just think of how different society would be if we had to wake up every day wondering if this would be the day the outbreak would start.
Even though we might disagree with the fact that all children should be vaccinated and that the government has the ethical responsibility to compel parents to ensure their children are vaccinated. We can all agree that we want our children to be healthy and safe. When we fail to have our children vaccinated the simplest trip to the grocery store or the doctor’s office could turn into a unexpected disaster by encountering an infectious disease. If it has been medically and scientifically proven that there is no harm in getting vaccinated why would anyone risk the safety and wellbeing of their children to avoid the possibility of developing a development issue that has been proven to have no relation to the vaccination process or drugs.
If getting our children vaccinated to protect them and keep them safe is not enough, what about to protect our parents and grandparents? Are they worth it? Imagine you take your child who is not vaccinated to visit their grandmother for the day because she is having cancer treatment, or she is ill. What will become of grandma in a few days because the child was a carrier of an infectious disease that could have been prevented? The infectious disease could have an even harsher effect on grandma. We must watch out and protect our vulnerable population. So many times, it seems our senior citizens are forgotten about and no one seems to care what happens to them. The US Department of Health and Human Services (2017) suggests “Vaccines are especially important for older adults. As you get older, your immune system weakens, and it can be more difficult to fight off infections. You’re more likely to get diseases like the flu, pneumonia, and shingles — and to have complications that can lead to long-term illness, hospitalization, and even death”(p.1). Even though they recommend that the elderly community get vaccinated themselves it is still essential to make sure the spread of diseases is controlled and that starts with vaccinating our children. Getting vaccinated can help keep you, your family, and your community healthy.
In today’s society it is unfortunate, but we have to worry if one day we will get a phone call because an armed gunman showed up at our children’s school. We have to worry if our children might not make it home from school one day because a stranger convinced them to get in the car with them. We have to think about our children being bullied and getting so depressed they may think it is easier to just die. We have to think about danger at every turn with our children and if they are safe. Why should we add one more reason to worry to our daily lives? If every child in the world was vaccinated for infectious diseases at an early age, we could cross the worry of an infectious disease epidemics off our list for the foreseeable future. That is all it would take for every child to be vaccinated. Just a few seconds, a few times in their lives for years of ensured safety and health for them. For our communities and our entire families. Everyone could go on to live happy healthy lives and it didn’t take much time or much money.
If a parent says I cannot vaccinate my children because I can not afford it that is a failure of our society. However, in the United States of America the US Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control and prevention provide funding to community health departments and non-profits to assist in low income situations. This helps ensure that every child has the opportunity to vaccinated. Just imagine if the government mandated vaccinations and there was no cost for any vaccination making them readily available to all children.
The American Academy of Pediatricians (2013) makes an excellent point about how far we have come in the field of vaccinations. They report that “Today, vaccinations are one of the many success stories in modern medicine. Smallpox was declared eradicated from the world in 1977. Polio was officially eliminated from the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere in 1991. Whereas 13,000 to 20,000 cases of polio were reported every year in the United States before the availability of the vaccine, no cases were reported in 2000! While there were 12,230 deaths from diphtheria in the United States in 1921 (long before the availability of a vaccine), there was only 1 case of diphtheria reported in 1998” (p. 4). There are advances in modern medicine every day. Who knows maybe in our lifetime we might see a vaccination for cancer. Would you be willing to risk your child’s health and skip that vaccination to? I would not be willing to jeopardize my child’s safety then just like I would not be now. I believe that the government should continue to promote the vaccination of children and I hope someday they make it mandatory that all children be vaccinated. I can only imagine a world were all children, communities and our vulnerable populations are safe and healthy because infectious diseases were eradicated completely.