Should childhood vaccination be mandatory?

May 15, 2012, British Medical Journal

In the British Medical Journal today, two experts debate whether childhood vaccination should be mandatory in the UK.

Paul Offit, Chief of at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia believes that mandatory vaccination is needed to protect vulnerable people from infection.

He argues that, when parents choose not to vaccinate, not only are they making a choice for their own children, they are also making a choice for those with whom their children come into contact. This includes children who are too young to receive vaccines and those who can't be vaccinated and depend on those around them to be protected.

Which is paramount: the freedom to make bad health decisions or the right of the community to protect itself from those decisions, he asks?

In the United States, mandatory vaccination clearly increases uptake, he says. For example, unlike the UK and Europe, the US didn't suffer a epidemic after claims of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. And in 2011, most of the 200 measles cases in the US were linked to European travel.

"Someday we may live in a world that doesn't scare patients into making bad ," he concludes. "Until then, mandates are the best way to ensure protection from illnesses that have caused so much needless suffering and death."

But David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation at the UK Department of Health, argues that there are more workable ways to ensure high uptake.

He points out that between 1998 and 2010, the peak age for measles cases in England and Wales was less than five years, so if vaccination were made compulsory for school entry, the law would be coming into effect after many infections had occurred.

He believes that can be raised by improving immunisation services and argues that, even after the MMR scare, compulsory vaccination "was never considered" and "would probably have made matters much worse."

He also highlights that in the US, exemptions to mandatory vaccination for school entry can be as high as 20% and the rate is increasing.

"When coverage is already high and rising, target diseases are under excellent control (although measles could be better), and parental acceptance for is high, compulsion seems a heavy hammer," he writes. "Compulsion would be unenforceable, unnecessary, and its use would probably do more harm than good."

Explore further: Anaphylactic shock after vaccination 'extremely rare'

Related Stories

Anaphylactic shock after vaccination 'extremely rare'

January 24, 2012
A sudden, serious allergic reaction -- known anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock -- following vaccination, is "extremely rare," concludes research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Mayo Clinic physician: Mistaken fear of measles shot has 'devastating' effect

August 30, 2011
More than 150 cases of measles have been reported in the United States already this year and there have been similar outbreaks in Europe, a sign the disease is making an alarming comeback. The reappearance of the potentially ...

Measles outbreaks on the rise across Europe

December 1, 2011
(AP) -- After years of decline, measles is on the rise in Europe, according to a new report released Thursday.

Doctors and nurses key to preventing vaccine refusal outbreaks

May 27, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Well-informed doctors and nurses are the key to preventing parents refusing childhood immunisations because of vaccine scare campaigns, a University of Sydney expert writes in the latest edition of the ...

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 16, 2012
Health is not created by injection of chemicals, it is derived through a lifetime of pure, whole foods, unadulterated water, adequate rest and exercise. Vaccination does not work - ask any of the hundreds, fully vaccinated, who have pertussis or measles or chicken pox - they did not get sick because the person next to them did not vaccinate, they got sick because the vaccines do not prevent the diseases! On the bright side, because they got sick, their natural immunity will prevent it from happening again. It is a sad era for PhRMA, who was planning a feast on the fattened vaccine cash-cow...Now, what will it take for all those who were killed or others who are struggling with life-long disability as a result of PhRMA's "unavoidably unsafe" vaccines to receive compensation for the harm done to them?!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.