Should Government Mandate Childhood Vaccinations?
Vaccination is considered to be one of the most effective means of protection against infectious diseases used in modern medicine. For over two centuries, it has been known to the general population that vaccines have demonstrated exceptional epidemiological and social success, averting an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year and improving the overall public health in many countries. Due to vaccination, it has now become possible to eradicate polio, with only three remaining polio-endemic countries. According to the statistics provided by UNICEF, all countries, except for 13 states, have ended the spread of maternal and neonatal tetanus through vaccination as well.
There are, undoubtedly, risks associated with vaccines, but the official data proves that the benefits outweigh those risks. Therefore, it has become necessary for the government to mandate the vaccination of the population and ensure convenient access for anyone who wishes to get vaccinated. Since the topic of vaccination has been controversial for many years, it is vital to implement this process to keep society healthy. Public health authorities should be responsible for providing full information about a given vaccine and the disease it prevents, and the policy-making process in itself should be transparent and consistent.
Moreover, it is necessary to strengthen control and monitor the coverage of preventive vaccinations for people at risk. It is especially important to protect young children precisely because, due to the characteristics of their immune system, they can hardly fight all infectious diseases. Parents may have the right to deny the vaccination of their children; however, the vaccination process should be the responsibility of every parent. Thus, I would vaccinate my children, too. Nevertheless, the collective good must be given priority; therefore, individual autonomy must be limited as it endangers other members of society and puts them at substantial risk of exposure to diseases that can be prevented by vaccines.