Today, readers are discussing and debating vaccinations and whether they should be mandatory. An anti-vaccine group has placed dozens of billboards in the Greater Toronto Area suggesting vaccines are risky and that children don’t need immunizations to attend school. A Globe Editorial is arguing the opposite, that there is a moral imperative to vaccinate all eligible individuals for the sake of maintaining herd immunity.
Vaccines are a victim of their own success. Most people either forgot or were not around when these diseases (measles, etc.) killed thousands of children every year. So now we will have to relive that terrible past - history certainly does have a way of repeating itself.
I am all for free speech, but this group is doing more harm than good with its misleading message. The group should take its own advice from the billboard message and "educate before you vaccinate" (or don't vaccinate). They would find that the risks of not vaccinating far outweigh the risks of vaccinating.
The challenge with those billboards is that there is no misinformation advertised. So you can't ban them, else it leads to censorship. Best to deal with the anti-vaxxers in court. We needs laws to bar unvaccinated kids from public places (specifically schools but also summer camps, organized sports clubs/leagues, etc.), and further laws to deal harshly with parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids that then get sick.
My family doctor started to refuse to see patients who didn't at least attempt to quit smoking, I think the front line medical community needs to start doing the same thing with people who refuse to get vaccinations.
Wow. Wouldn't this be akin to directing people towards self-harm? Don't we have laws that prevent people from knowingly spreading information that could cause harm to another?
Enough with these science skeptics who spread incredibly harmful rhetoric. Everybody should be vaccinated, period. And there is no room to debate man made climate change either; the science is there and the problem needs to be addressed now. And yes the Earth is in fact a sphere.
I am staggered that any one person let alone a group of people can be so stupid. I am old enough to have lived through polio and other pandemics that crippled and killed thousands of people prior to the development of vaccines. I guess these anti-vaccine folks want us to return to that era.
Readers are also responding to the Globe editorial To protect the vulnerable, vaccines should be mandatory
You can never make immunization completely mandatory, even though it may seem like the obvious solution. Education is the key to this. Stopping the spread of misinformation and fear is as great a challenge as stopping the spread of disease itself.
It all seems so reasonable and yet I think we should be very, very, very careful with giving the government the right to violate bodily integrity and inject substances into citizens whether they want it or not. That is a huge power to give the state and history doesn't make me hopeful that it will never be misused.
K McIntyre in response:
This is the main counterpoint to mandatory vaccinations. It would represent an unprecedented level of state involvement in personal medical decisions, and it is hard to weigh the measurable public benefit from it against the less tangible harm from what we would normally consider infringement on human rights. The flip side is that it depends somewhat on what 'mandatory' means. Preventing unvaccinated children (who don't have a valid medical reason to be so) from accessing publicly funded schools is a reasonable step and light as far as coercion goes. Also fines might be appropriate to offset the higher cost of health care that these people are incurring. I don't think in any situation we are talking about forcibly vaccinating anyone.
My aunt had polio. There was an epidemic in Budapest in the '40s and she, an active healthy 11 year old, got it, and was in a wheelchair for the rest of her life till she died at 56. She was not a happy person. My mother told me that when years later, a new-ish refugee in Canada, she heard the news that the polio vaccine was now available, and she was both sad for her sister but overjoyed that her own children would never get it. It's impossible to dismiss the positive effective of vaccinations against deadly diseases like polio and smallpox. As for the flu shot, its effectiveness seems limited - last year 25% - since it's impossible to determine accurately what the coming year's flu strains will be. And in any event, I certainly don't put it in the same category as those vaccinations that are a blessing to us all. But should these be mandatory for fear of the 'herd' not being large enough to prevent an epidemic? I agree with some other posters that giving government the power to enforce injections on us is not necessarily a good idea. I'd also be interested to know just what percent, really, of the population would not inoculate their children against a deadly disease?
We’ve tried educating, we’ve tried the soft sell, we’ve tried shaming but none of it appears to be working. For whatever reason there are people (and surprisingly some are intelligent) who would rather believe pseudo science and posts on Facebook rather than hard, peer reviewed science. The evidence is very clear. There is no choice left but to make vaccination mandatory. At some point some poor kid is going to die from one of these diseases because someone else was irresponsible and that person is going to be charged with murder.
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