Should Vaccines Be Required for Children?

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School vaccinations have been mandatory for children in the United States for decades. The federal government does not mandate any laws for vaccinations, but all 50 states require that parents vaccinate their children against various diseases, including polio and measles, as a prerequisite to enrolling them in public schools.

Many of us may remember getting our vaccinations before we began to go to school. At the time, we had no idea as children what was being shot into our bodies with a needle. The supporters of vaccines see school vaccination laws as a key part of the control of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. I will present both sides of this controversial and current healthcare issue including the pros and cons, and then I will conclude by stating how the issue of child vaccines should be handled.

The first vaccination that was required for school was administered in the 1850s in Massachusetts. This vaccination was given to prevent smallpox from transmitting between students. Almost half of the states had requirements for vaccinations prior to starting school by the 1900s. Today, all 50 states require vaccination of children. The vaccinations are different depending on the state, and the diseases can include rubella, measles, mumps, tetanus, polio, diphtheria, and pertussis. According to Procon, “all 50 states issue medical exemptions, 48 states (excluding Mississippi and West Virginia) permit religious exemptions, and 20 states allow an exemption for philosophical reasons” (2013).

There are a great number of people who support the idea that vaccinations are harmful and should not be given to their children, and for many reasons. They argue that the side effects of these vaccinations are not worth the risk of preventing illnesses that are non-threatening. These side effects differ with each type of vaccine.

The measles/mumps/rubella vaccine can cause febrile seizures, which is a type of seizure that occurs in infants and young children in association with fever (“Vaccines Have Serious Side Effects”). This vaccine can also lead to joint pain in women and children. In addition, “six types of vaccines – MMR, varicella-zoster (chickenpox), influenza, hepatitis B, meningococcal, and tetanus-containing vaccines – are linked to anaphylaxis” (“Vaccines Have Serious Side Effects”). Furthermore, the injection of any of these vaccines can result in syncope and severe shoulder tenderness and inflammation.

The health risks of vaccinations do not stop there. There is research that suggests that these vaccines can have negative effects for years to come:

Many people who experience an adverse reaction to vaccines have individual susceptibility that can make them at higher risk for experiencing acute and chronic health problems after vaccination due to biodiversity (genetic variations) within populations; age at the time of vaccination; immune deficiencies; coinciding infections/illnesses; and other environmental exposures, (such as toxins, traumas). (Mercola)

The smallpox vaccination can even result in death. While these deaths are mostly associated with people whose immune systems are weak, to begin with, “for every million people vaccinated for smallpox, between 14 and 52 could have a life-threatening reaction to smallpox vaccine” (“Vaccine Side Effects and Adverse Events,” 2013). The smallpox vaccination can also result in serious eye infection and even vision loss due to the spread of the vaccine virus to the eye.

Opponents of vaccinations also claim that numerous studies prove that vaccines may trigger health issues such as autism, ADHD, and multiple sclerosis. They believe that these vaccinations cause brain inflammation, which can result in disorders such as the ones previously mentioned. This brain inflammation can also result in permanent brain damage. Furthermore, “the vaccine additive thimerosal (found in most pre-1999 vaccines) has been associated specifically with the development of autism and is still found in certain meningococcal, tetanus, and flu vaccines such as the H1N1 vaccine” (Vaccines ProCon). All of this evidence strongly suggests that certain vaccinations can cause autism in children. There is even evidence that vaccines can trigger auto-immune disorders like arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.

Those who are opposed to child vaccinations feel that a child’s immune system is strong enough to deal with most infections naturally. Some even have religious beliefs and think that vaccines interfere with natural law and disease. They believe that vaccinations are merely interfering with God’s plan.

On the opposite side, people who are pro-vaccinations for children feel that the vaccines are completely safe. Those who are for vaccines feel that “the risks of not being vaccinated far outweigh the small risks associated with vaccination” (Vaccines ProCon). They also believe that they are among the greatest health achievements of our time.

Not only pro-vaccination people contend that studies that attempt to prove vaccines are harmful are biased and misleading, they believe that the studies provide faulty results. They point out that illnesses, including rubella, diphtheria, and whooping cough, which once killed thousands of babies every year, are now prevented by vaccination. They contend that anti-vaccination studies are often faulty, biased, and misleading.

According to Vaccine.com, vaccines are tested and studies to ensure their safety:

It may be reassuring to know that vaccines are constantly studied and monitored to make sure they are safe. Safety monitoring and testing continue long after vaccines are licensed. Although no medical intervention is 100% safe, the risk of serious side effects from vaccines, such as severe allergic reactions, is rare. (“Vaccine Safety,” 2013)

After careful consideration of both sides of the child vaccination debate, I have my own opinion as to how the issue should be handled. It should be the parents’ decision as to whether or not their child will be given vaccinations. Given the evidence of the possible harmful effects such as autism, it seems that vaccinations should definitely be voluntary in the United States.

The government should not have the right to intervene in the health decisions that parents make for their children. The prevalence of most of these diseases has diminished a great deal, and they are rare in this day and age. The vaccines simply do not seem worth the risk of children developing autism or ADHD. In addition, there is no guarantee that the vaccinations for children are even 100% safe or effective: “Vaccines are safe and effective. However, they are neither perfectly safe nor perfectly effective. Consequently, some persons who receive vaccines will be injured as a result, and some persons who receive vaccines will not be protected” (Himlan & Malone, p. 263). So parents are supposed to take their children to get these vaccines and shots and hope they might work? There is insufficient evidence to prove that vaccinations are safe for children.

Vaccines are promoted primarily to generate profits for manufacturers. There is no proof that they actually work or that they will not have severe future health risks for children. While it may be in a parent’s best interest to have their child vaccinated, they should have the right to refuse it. The fact that vaccinations are mandatory for children seems unconstitutional, and it also seems like a violation of a parent’s right to choose what their child is exposed to, regardless of the claims on both sides.

References

Malone, K., & Hinman, A. (n.d.). Vaccination Mandates: The Public Health Imperative and Individual Rights. Center for Disease Control. Retrieved November 22, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/policies/downloads/vacc_mandates_chptr13.pdf

Mercola, Joseph. “Vaccines Have Serious Side Effects - The Institute of Medicine Says So!” (n.d.). Mercola. Retrieved November 21, 2013, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/27/vaccines-are-dangerous-says-the-government.aspx

“Vaccine Safety.” (2013, July 15). Vaccine.com. Retrieved November 22, 2013, from http://www.vaccines.com/vaccine-side-effects.cfm

“Vaccine Side Effects and Adverse Events.” (n.d.). History of Vaccines RSS. Retrieved November 21, 2013, from http://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/vaccine-side-effects-and-adverse-events

Vaccines ProCon (n.d.). ProConorg Headlines. Retrieved November 22, 2013, from http://vaccines.procon.org/#background