Katherine Smart | Monday, March 14, 2016
Currently, children between the ages of zero and six years old receive an average of 28 doses of ten different vaccines. Although there is no federal mandate requiring these vaccinations, all 50 states have some sort of requirement for public schools. This has sparked debates over the legality of these mandatory vaccinations, especially pertaining to preschools and elementary education. While parents are entitled to make medical decisions for their children, public schools should continue to mandate vaccinations in order to protect the welfare of their communities.
The first concern many parents bring up regarding mandatory vaccinations is the side effects. Since many of these vaccinations are given at a young age, parents are often concerned that the negative side effects could have a lasting impact on their child’s development. In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published a study that claimed there was a link between Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccinations and autism in children. In 2005, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote an article for Rolling Stone claiming that thimerosal caused “speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity and autism” in young children. However both of these claims have been discredited numerous times. In fact, the British Journal of Medicine reported that Wakefield had received over $650,000 in bribe money from multiple law firms to fake test results. While Kennedy’s thimerosal study was also disproved by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Public Health Service, thimerosal is currently not administrated in vaccinations for children younger than six as a precaution. Because multiple scientific studies have proven that vaccines are not linked to these lasting side effects, parents cannot use this argument as a reason to not vaccinate their children. However, there is a direct correlation between children who are not vaccinated and children who contract diseases such as pertussis and/or the chickenpox. Therefore, schools should mandate vaccinations based on the most recent studies preformed by the medical community.
Another reason some people are not in favor of mandated vaccinations is because they don’t think that government should be interfering with their medical decisions. Whether it is from an extreme libertarian or a religious rights perspective, some people believe that it’s not the job of the government to dictate whether a child is vaccinated or not. While the government’s reach is a valid political and philosophical issue, it is not a valid argument against mandated vaccinations. Because the government is funding the public school system, legally they can require participants to have certain vaccinations before attending. If certain beliefs cause parents to feel strongly that they do not want to vaccinate their children, they always have the option of homeschooling them. Since there are no federal laws requiring vaccinations, there is no legal force requiring parents to disregard their beliefs or ideals and vaccinate their kids. However, they will have to accept that they will be limiting their education options. Because the legal systems still allows parents to make this choice, the public schooling system should continue to require vaccines in order to protect the wellbeing of the students the school is responsible for.
One of the emerging arguments against mandated childhood vaccinations is that the pharmaceutical companies, FDA and CDC should not be trusted to regulate vaccines. Looking back at the Turing Pharmaceuticals scandal where the CEO increased the price of a lifesaving drug by 5,000 percent, corruption within the industry is clearly a valid concern. However, the vaccines currently required for all public schools are not new drugs. DTaP, IVP, MMR, Varicella and Hepatitis B have all been extensively studied and have persisted to survive media controversies and political questionings. For a drug to be required at every public school throughout the United States, the scrutiny it would undergo by both the scientific and political communities would prevent any one corrupt organization from providing harmful vaccinations. For example, even the annual flu shot is still optional in every state except Connecticut. Therefore, these current vaccinations should stay mandated due to the years of analysis that support their authenticity.
Clearly, public schools should mandate vaccinations in order to prevent harmful diseases from spreading throughout the school’s population and into the greater community. Although vaccinations should still be mandated, researching any vaccination before receiving it as well as understanding your family’s medical history is important. Hopefully by promoting vaccine use, people lucky enough to have access to these vaccines can work with other nations to help the children in their communities also have access to this great medical achievement.
For more information on the arguments surrounding mandated vaccinations, please visit vaccines.procon.org.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.