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For the sake of this particular discussion we are going to ignore arguments related to anti-vaccinating. This really isn’t about vaccinations. This discussion is about what power the government should have when it comes to the choices parents make concerning their own children.
Does a person have a right not to get vaccinated or for their children not to be? If there are 10 people in a room and one of them has a disease he can spread it to the other 9. However, if all those other people are vaccinated against that disease will he spread it? It is true that vaccines aren’t 100%, but they are pretty effective. We know this because diseases that used to kill millions no longer do, that’s thanks to vaccines. What harm does it do to society for someone not to get vaccinated?
This question is complicated some when we say that the person in question is a child. They cannot decide for themselves. A parent can decide but legally they cannot decide a course of action that harms the child. Does not vaccinating them constitute a harm? Is it neglect or perhaps negligence? If they get sick, then is it abuse or possibly manslaughter if they die?
I believe in as much personal liberty as is possible without infringing on the rights of others. I’ve used as an example smoking. I am not in favor of laws that would outlaw smoking. However, I am in favor of laws that prevent it in public. It infringes upon my rights since it is harmful. I am against seat belt laws. No one is harmed by my not wearing a seat belt. I could go on. I am vaccinated so I’m not particularly worried about catching something. But a child can’t make that choice for themselves, a parent is doing it. Or in the case of the woman in the below linked article, not doing it.
What is the line between personal liberty and harm when it comes to choices of a medical nature? I am strongly against socialized medicine or the government telling people what they must do in terms of their own health. That much to me is clear. But when a child is involved it muddies up the waters for me. If everyone else is vaccinated, or if that child lives in America the chance of contracting a disease like polio is quite slim. That particular disease was officially declared eradicated in 1979. It’s said that any cases found in the US came from somewhere else. A child from India, for example, who comes to the US, and has polio, is counted statistically as a case here even though that child won’t give polio to a child in the US. If the disease is gone here, then what harm is there for a mother not to vaccinate their child?
But, there are plenty of diseases that do still exist. In the case below the issue is that the mother does not want the child to be vaccinated but the father does. They are divorced so the courts must get involved. But what of a case where neither parent desires it? Most schools will not admit a child unless they are vaccinated. While most parents think that this protects their child, it really just protects the vaccinated child as their children are already protected. Certainly if there was a chance that a child could infect other children it is completely reasonable to not allow that child in a school.
This really isn’t an issue I’ve thought a great deal about. That’s because I am in favor of vaccinations for major diseases like polio. I never really stopped to think what would happen if I didn’t want vaccinations. When it comes to liberty we often think of the things we can do rather than the things we can refuse to do. The right of refusal is equally as important as the liberty to take an action is. I may write on this again once I’ve had more time to think about it and hopefully you all will have something to share that will help me understand the issue more deeply. Until then I feel that there seems to be little harm, in America at least, to refusing. I can’t imagine a parent would want to take a chance with their child but many anti-vaxxers say that’s exactly why they don’t want to have it done.
DETROIT — A Michigan mother who served five days in jail for violating a court order to vaccinate her son is heading back to court hoping to prevent any future shots.