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Do parents have a right to refuse to vaccinate their children?In the past ten years,...

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ms-charleston... | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted August 17, 2012 at 6:54 PM via web

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Do parents have a right to refuse to vaccinate their children?

In the past ten years, more and more parents are choosing to not get their children vaccinated. One of the reasons is the rise in rates of autism, which now affects 1 in 88 children. Despite numerous studies that have proven that vaccines are not the cause of autism, many parents and parents-to-be remain unconvinced. Their refusal to get their children vaccinated has led to a rise in diseases once thought to be eradicated, like measles, mumps, and whooping cough. Do parents have a right to refuse to vaccinate their children?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 18, 2012 at 12:30 AM (Answer #2)

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I would have to say that parents do not have any such right.  A parent's right to run their child's life ends when their decisions start to have an impact on other people. 

Right now, we are having a whooping cough epidemic in the county where I live.  This is partly because of how many people choose not to vaccinate.  For myself, I don't care.  My family and I are all vaccinated and will not be affected.  But what if you have an infant that is too young to be vaccinated?  I do not think that another person has the right to endanger your child by refusing to vaccinate theirs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccination

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 18, 2012 at 4:28 AM (Answer #3)

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I tend to agree with the above post, and wouldd vaccinate my own children if I had any, but I do have some thorny legal questions about this issue. Yes, it is a matter of public health and safety that the public be immunized against infectious and sometimes deadly diseases.  Does a child have a right to refuse their own vaccination?  If neither they nor the parents do, then essentially the government can compel anyone to be vaccinated.  That sets a legal precedent that is problematic.  Would the courts then rule that only vaccinations fall under the government's authority? 


The government did compel military soldiers to take an injection of Anthrax Vaccine before they were deployed, and there were widespread reports of ugly side effects.  Can I as a citizen decide that the risk of Anthrax attack is quite low, and therefore I do not wish to be inoculated?  There are a lot of legal issues to be worked out with this particular topic.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 18, 2012 at 4:30 PM (Answer #4)

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There are some areas of life in which the government does not have the right to interefere. One of these is parenting; however, like anything else, there must be exceptions to the rule. Child abuse, sexual abuse, withholding lifesaving procedures, and vaccinations--these are the exceptions. The government has the right to intercede if harm is occurring or will occur to the child who cannot protect himself. 

Vaccinations save lives. There is no denying that immunization programs have had a major impact on disease.  Children do not like them at the time. Parents do not like putting their children through them, but the alternatives are much worse. 

Go back in vaccination history. In 1721, Reverend Cotton Mather and Dr. Zabdiel Boylston introduced smallpox vaccinations to Boston. They were highly successful.  President Thomas Jefferson took a close interest in vaccinations, alongside Dr. Waterhouse, chief physician in Boston: 

Jefferson encouraged the development of ways to transport vaccine material to the Southern states..[Because of this] small outbreaks were contained by the end of the 19th Century, a development widely attributed to vaccination of a large portion of the population.

When vaccinations fell off, the disease again became rampant. 

By the end of the 20th Century, cholera, rabies, tetanus, typhoid fever, diphtheria, tuberculosis, polio, measles, mumps, and many other life threatening diseases had all been eradicated. Wow! What would the world be like without these vaccinations?

So what is the problem?

When it comes to vaccinations, sorting fact from fiction is essential. According to the American Pediatrics Association,  the United States must continue its vaccination program.

These are the associations answers to the myths concerning vaccines:

Autism is not caused by vaccinations.  Studies have thoroughly reviewed the vaccines--the MMR combination vaccines, and specific ingredients--and found no connection to autism.

There are no dangerous ingredients in vaccines. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that a preservative called thimerosol might cause minor redness at the injection site and that is all.

Vaccines must be continued even though many diseases have been nearly eradicated. Once vaccinatiions are stopped in large numbers, the disease will recur, quickly travelling between unvaccinated children.

Here is the simplicity of the situation: 

My parents were vaccinated; I was vaccinated;  my child was vaccinated; my grandchild has been vaccinated. Like most families in the United States, we had no residual effects and have not suffered any of the illnesses for which we were vaccinated.

Follow the law, and everyone should be protected from these heinous diseases. This must not be a personal decision. It must be a requirement for the parent and the child.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/vaccinations

http://www.enotes.com/vaccinations-article/39747

http://www.parenting.com/article/10-vaccine-myths---busted?page=0,1

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 22, 2012 at 3:08 PM (Answer #5)

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I believe parents have a right not to vaccinate their children if, and only if, they are willing to forgo their rights to free public education and free health care.

It completely enrages me that parents can now sign a "religious waver" upon enrolling their children in public Kindergarten that says for religious reasons, they are not vaccinating their child.

For the risk they open to the rest of the school (and mothers coming in and out with newborn babies), these parents should be responsible for educating their children in an alternative setting.  Namely: at home.

The anti-vax bandwagon that seems to be sweeping the country, to me, is just another glaring example of the lack of personal responsibility Americans are taking for themselves and how their actions affect others.

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted September 2, 2012 at 8:16 PM (Answer #6)

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Whenever the concept of rights comes into a debate, discussion becomes a brier patch. Of course no one wants to impinge on anyone's rights especially in parenting where most of us fight like angered bears at any threat to our children's safety or moral or spiritual well-being. But the thing about rights is that they fall uniformly to all. So the question of parental rights shares center stage with equal questions of communities' right, the child's rights, cohort rights, your neighbor's rights.

Another point is that methods and materials and processes of preparing vaccines have dramatically changed over the decades--as is true for everything that is part of American life from perfume to dishsoap/detergent--bringing up the question of corporations' rights to reduce cost, increase production and increase profit at the risk of doing harm. I think the question is thus much more complicated than parents' rights.

I think the issue begins with the question: Do pharmaceutical corporations have the right to increase the risk of vaccination, thereby frightening parents into withdrawing consent for childhood immunizations and, thereby, putting these children and their entire communities at severe risk, which has secondary consequences of putting entire nations and, conceivably, the entire world at risk? Having said all this, while I disagree that the changes in manufacturing vaccines is a just exercise of corporate rights, I am convinced that exposing children and communities to yesteryear's plagues and epidemics is a serious breach of parental rights--but who can blame them for their fears?

Global Vaccines, Inc

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 1, 2012 at 1:53 AM (Answer #7)

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No, parents should not be able to refuse to vaccinate their children.  I do appreciate people's religious beliefs.  However, their children are not going to be living in a bubble.  They will go to school, and even if they don't they will be in contact with other children and people.

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