Should Parents Be Forced to Vaccinate?

Why vaccinate when instead your child can play "connect the dots"?

Why vaccinate when instead your child can play connect the dots?

Over on Badastronomy Phil Plait posted up an article about an anti-vax nutjob in London. It engendered many, many comments, including ones from people who said, basically, “Hey, parents have the right not to have their children vaccinated.”

This brings up an interesting ethical question, which is: should parents be forced to vaccinate their children, regardless of their personal scientific/medical/religious viewpoints?”

Clearly the answer is a resounding yes.

There’s probably several reasons for this, but there’s two that matter to me. Public health and the rights of the child. Let me explain.

First, public health. Due to the anti-vax nonsense, we’ve had several outbreaks of measles and mumps here in the USA. Things that no one should have to suffer through. Diseases that cause blindness, sterility and even death. For vaccination to be really effective, it requires that everyone be vaccinated. Once that’s done, you can eliminate the disease. It’s what happened with smallpox, and it can happen with other diseases, too, but it requires people be vaccinated, even if they don’t want to be.

Second, the rights of the child. While I’ll generally agree that parents have the right to raise their children however they want, there are certain things they aren’t allowed to do. They aren’t allowed to put their baby at risk by driving around without it in a car seat. They can’t beat their children. They can’t refuse to feed and clothe them.

By the same token, I don’t believe parents should be allowed to put their child at risk by refusing to vaccinate them. Yes, there’s always a danger of a fatal reaction to the vaccination, but that’s less than the risk of the child dying or suffering other nasty side effects from catching a disease that can be easily prevented.

To me it comes down to parents making a choice when their child is young that could kill that child when it’s older. Many diseases that are “merely” incredibly painful, miserable and awful to a child are fatal to adults. Often the vaccines must be administered when the person in question is a child so the immunity can be built up; it won’t work if you give them to an adult. So even if you believe, “well, the child can decide for themselves once they are an adult,” that logic doesn’t work, because the vaccinations must be done while the child is still a child.

While you might accept the notion that parents have the right to put their children at risk for fatal diseases, surely you must agree they don’t have the same right to put other adults at risk. When they refuse to vaccinate, not only do they put people in the general population at risk, but they also put their children at risk during childhood and especially as adults.

I suppose some people might throw up a religious argument and say that their faith forbids them from vaccination, as it does from other medical treatments. All well and good. If they personally want to refuse treatments for themselves, that’s fine, but they don’t have the right to make their children martyrs to their faith. Just like it’s illegal for parents to refuse to give a diabetic child insulin because it’s against their religion, so should it be illegal to refuse vaccination because of faith.

Ultimately it comes down to the fact that refusing to vaccinate your child is tantamount to neglect and borderline abuse. I know some well-meaning buffoons think they’re doing their child a favor and saving it from possible autism, but there’s no link at all between vaccines and autism, so that doesn’t work. Yes, there is a slight risk from the vaccine itself, but that’s lower than the risk of miserable, horrible side-effects or death from a disease.

So let’s pass some laws. Let’s make vaccination mandatory and punish those who refuse to vaccinate their kids. It’s better for the public as a whole and for the kids in question, and there is no reasonable defense for not doing it.


21 Responses to “Should Parents Be Forced to Vaccinate?”

  1. Carlos Says:

    Don’t forget the socio-economic costs.

    If you have the right not to be vaccinated, then insurance companies and/or the government (depending on your country) have the right to refuse treatment when you do get the disease! Why should other policy holders/taxpayers have to subsidize your poor decisions?

    • concerned gramma Says:

      so carlos,if i don’t vaccinate my children,and they catch a desease you want to refuse treatment..fine, but when you and your vaccinated children catch the same desease, they too should then be refused treatment. if this was to happen your idiotic idea would cause a lot of heartache, as most kids that catch these deseases are vaccinated.

      • Chris Says:

        That’s extremely ignorant. You’re saying that most people who catch diseases are catching ones they are vaccinated against? That makes absolutely no sense.

        • Elizabeth Says:

          Hate to say this, but some vaccines are not terribly effective. Yes, outbreaks happen in highly vaccinated populations too…maybe not more than unvaxed (not lots of peer-reviewed studies available on this), but vaxing is not a sure form of protection. It is simply the only one mass marketed to us.
          ( I personally hope we’ve got something better for whopping cough in the pipeline somewhere. And there is a new, a less-discussed problem called Parapertussis b supposedly a “milder” form of pertussis. No vaccine at all for this yet…and no, the current vaccine does not lessen the severity)

          • Chris Says:

            Well, you know what? Nothing is really sure in life. Even if vaccines have, say, only a 10% effectiveness rate, that’s better than risking someone’s kid getting some sort of horrible disease. And I’m sure the rates of effectiveness are much, much higher than that.

  2. Lone Wolf Says:

    Its not just about their children. If the anti-vax idiots are allowed not to vaccinate there children it would weaken herd immunity. For every child that is not vaccinated the greater the chances other un-vaccinated children will catch the disease. And there are children out there that can no be vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons so its not just the children of idiots they are risking.

  3. PiedType Says:

    Hey, if you don’t want to vaccinate your child, fine. Just lock him in the house and don’t ever let him out, EVER. He’s not allowed to play with other kids, go to school with other kids, be on the street with other kids. He’s not allowed to mix with society in any way, at any time. And in lieu of a vaccination, he must have a big red X tattooed on his forehead, to warn others in case he ever escapes your house.

  4. Chris Says:

    I dunno. Parents don’t have the right to put their child’s health in danger when something as simple as vaccination can take care of the problem. By the same token, the child shouldn’t be kept inprisoned by their parents because they refused to vaccinate.

    Here’s a better idea: if people won’t vaccinate their children, the state takes them away, gives them their shots, and then gives them back.

    • James L. Mandeville Says:


      I don’t really know you from Adam, but your post on “Blogging with Badger,” concerning having our government take people’s children away who refuse to vaccinate them properly, makes total sense to me.

      Liberally Democratic office holders are likely to balk at this sensible suggestion, at least initially.

      They will argue that the right to parent one’s own children is a constitutional right. Some may even charge that the right to parental privacy is a right that we were given be our Creation,

      This seemingly solid argument falls apart a little, however, when you consider its further implications on American laws and upon our society.

      Generally, the protection of citizens remains a notable exception to the rule about the violation of people’s civil liberties!!!

      This is especially the case with regarding children, who are considered particularly vulnerable citizens.

      If the contraction of a communicable disease doesn’t relate to the personal safety and overall well-being of our children and even adult or grown-up citizens, I cannot possibly comprehend what sort of issue or topic you believe would apply!!!!

      All things considered, I believe your plan should be signed into common law.

      It is a good idea.

      It should at least be given a try.

      We can do no less.

      Future generations are depending upon our wisdom and foresight.

  5. Schafer Says:

    What is wrong with you people? Do you realize that these vaccines are loaded with mercury and God only knows what else? Do you realize that 1 in 150 children have autism? Do you know that the only thing that all these children have in common?? Their parents were uninformed enough to vaccinate! Did you know that before parents were forced (and they are forced)to vaccinate autism was nearly unheard of. As for lone wolf….are you seriously buying all that stuff? Do some research. Or do you believe that suddenly mercury is good for you. I pray that God will wake you all up.

    • ammmty Says:

      i pray to god that my children never have to come across you or people like you for their safety
      thanks for nothing a- hole

  6. Chris Says:

    Ok, then! *claps hands in anticipation* I’m assuming this is all tongue-in-cheek, since you’re exactly touching on all the points the anti-vax nutjobs like to raise, but in case it isn’t, let me refute one of your points. Only one, cause I feel lazy.

    There is no mercury in vaccines.

    When you mention it, I assumed you were referring to thiomersal, an organic mercury compound. That was removed from vaccines starting in 1999 and it’s pretty much gone. Plus there was no evidence it caused autism in the first place.

    Oh, and Lone Wolf is exactly right, as rising rates of measels infections in Australia, the UK and the USA has shown.


  7. Schafer Says:

    I assumed you would have known that some of these vaccines still have mercury in them. Let’s pretend for a moment, however, that it is no longer added.To what do you attribute the rise in autism, SIDS, mental retardation or ADHD ? Maybe the aluminum? Maybe the MSG? Some people are willing to gamble with the lives of their children, not me.

  8. PiedType Says:

    Personally, I attribute the “rise” in all the things Schafer mentions to (a) a steadily increasing population, (b) changing, broadening definitions of the conditions, and (c) improved diagnosis and detection identifying previously unidentified or misidentified cases.

  9. Chris Says:

    Some people are willing to gamble with the lives of their children, not me.

    So… instead you don’t get them vaccinated and leave them capable of getting diseases like measels, mumps, rubella, polio, chicken pox and other, equally nasty illnesses? How exactly is that not gambling with the lives of your children?

    Fact: there is no scientific evidence at all, period, that supports the concept of people getting autism from vaccines. It just doesn’t happen.

  10. Schafer Says:

    First of all, I apologize, because this is a subject for me that really just has to do with trusting God and not injecting innocent children with things that may harm them. Is it really so unbelievable that vaccination could possibly be so dangerous? Seriously, think about this, out of the top ten killers of people in America (taken from USA Today, Nov,30 1999) the fourth is death from prescription drugs…adverse reactions from prescription drugs. Number 8 is from medical mistakes at the hand of attending physician. Could it be so hard to believe that perhaps we should not so easily conform just because our physicians think they know what is best for our children? As Americans should we give up our freedoms for a feeling of security? Who was it that said if you would give up your freedom for a sense of security then you never really deserved it in the first place?

  11. Chris Says:

    Yes, physicians know what is best for your children when it comes to their health and safety. Unless you’ve spent eight years in medical school, you don’t know as much as they do.

    Now that we’ve established that, allow me to remind you that there is zero evidence supporting the notion that vaccines cause autism. None. Period. There is however plenty of evidence that they will save your child from dying.

    Personally, I’d say that even if there was a link, it’d be worth the risk to keep your kid from being dead.

  12. Schafer Says:

    Ok Then. Since your only argument is that there is no proof of autism..etc being linked vaccines (such as there was no proof smoking caused lung cancer years ago) we should go right ahead without any questions asked to put our complete trust in (pharmacutical companies )and physicians who are human and quite capable of error just because they went to school , then the people who wish to do that should go right ahead. Since the vaccines work there should be no fear if some of us decline. The real problem here is that there should be no question in a free society wether or not all should be forced to vacc. even if it goes against their beliefs. Thank you for the stimulating arguments though.

  13. Chris Says:

    Hey, there’s never anything wrong with being skeptical, but there’s a difference between being a skeptic and simply clinging onto a different form of delusion. There is zero evidence that vaccines cause autism. Period. There’s plenty of rock solid proof that they keep kids from catching illnesses that can kill them. To me that’s a good enough reason.

    And there is fear of people who decline to get vaccines. Not everyone is physically capable of being vaccinated (HIV patients, cancer patients, etc).

    And you’re right: even in a free society there should be no question. Parents should be forced to have their parents vaccinated regardless of any beliefs, including those of religion. They do not have the right to put their child’s health and well-being in danger for their faith.

  14. Bronty Says:

    I don’t see many scientists and doctors here. I am both.

    Science is faith and also a type of philosophical inquiry. It is not perfect, intrinsically. When you add-in the thousand of individuals involved in the research, writing, business strategizing, and marketing of just one drug, the potential for conclusions to be wrong is fairly high. In most cases, drugs and vaccines will be safe. In a few cases, they will not be safe. No one should be forced to take a drug.

    Do any of you think that us medical scientists have tremendous and 100% understanding on even just one particular subject matter? If you do, you’re crazy. And, if you want to force people to take vaccines—especially newer ones, you’re psychotic.

    You want authority, be it science, a specific leader, a God… Instead, I suggest you start thinking for yourselves and thinking creatively. In doing so, you might actually help in advancing science.

    Researcher/PhD/MD, Boston

  15. Chris Says:

    Well, without knowing who you are, I can’t speak to the validity of your claims to be a doctor and a scientist. But I’ll accept what you’re saying, if you like, though it doesn’t make you look good.

    First, science is not faith. Science is based on scientific method. This is where you look at all the information you have, formulate a theory that explains the information, and then test that theory until you find out if it’s right or wrong. This is a gross oversimplification, but it’s sufficient to get my point across. Science is about proof, not faith.

    People should be forced to take a drug, even if it’s just a vaccine. If people hadn’t been required to get smallpox vaccines, we’d still have smallpox. I think I’m willing to interfere with a small amount of personal freedoms in return for a larger benefit to the world.

    Lastly, I’d hardly call the MMR vaccines “newer”. I seem to recall having vaccines for MMR back in 1977, when I was enrolling in kindergarten.

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