Dead diseases return without vaccines

We can’t leave it up to parents to decide if vaccines are right or wrong for children.

Ronald Dixon

Through vaccines, we can eradicate debilitating diseases, but many parents choose against vaccinating their children. Without protection, these ailments continue to spread. Measles, a highly contagious illness that kills or disables one in every 1,000 patients, was once dead, but thanks to ignorant or disadvantaged parents, measles are back.

Several major cities across the United States, including New York and Los Angeles, have had several cases of measles this year, particularly children and people who have not received vaccines.

Why are these parents and guardians so fearful of a safe injection that won’t endanger their children?

Some parents listen to delusional politicians and talking heads who have expressed the view that vaccines can cause autism. A 1998 study found that there was a link between these two ailments, but scientists have since retracted it. Nevertheless, several lawmakers, including congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., continue to espouse this belief.

Some of this opposition comes from conservative or fundamental religious beliefs. In the case of the human papillomavirus vaccinations, for example, some social conservatives argue that this medication encourages promiscuity, which contradicts their interpretation of the Bible. Others claim that any sort of medical treatment is an insult to God, because messing with the supernatural being’s creation would lead God to believe that the vaccinators have no faith in his divine plans.

Whatever the ideological justification, however, these parents’ inaction has allowed for outbreaks of measles and other diseases. We should not tolerate their neglect, which borders on child abuse.

Tackling the dilemma will be very arduous. If we attempted to get more parents to vaccinate their kids through persuasion or ad campaigns, we wouldn’t have any luck. According to a recent study in Pediatrics, when researchers gave subjects four different pro-vaccine messages, not only were many people not more willing to seek vaccination, but it actually created or enhanced antipathy toward them.

If parents will not listen to evidence, then the only alternative would be to use the power of the federal government to force parents to vaccinate their children. When people are getting sick due to a preventable ailment, then the justification for government action outweighs parental rights.

On the state level, Colorado’s House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee passed a bill that requires parents to vaccinate their children before they attend public school, or the parents must undertake online classes and visit a medical professional. Although I applaud the efforts of Colorado lawmakers, they could go further.

There should be no exemption based upon ignorance, politics or religion, and classes will not persuade these parents. Instead, a federal law should require all parents to vaccinate their children once appropriate. This law could also subsidize vaccines to ensure that all families can treat their kids. Finally, it could also fund experiments to find alternatives for children who are allergic to vaccines. 

Federal action is the only way we can guarantee the rights of children, and the protection of society, from delusional parents.