Some people argue that the state does not have the right to make parents immunise their children. However, I feel the question is not whether they should immunise but whether, as members of society, they have the right not to.
Preventative medicine has proved to be the most effective way of reducing the incidence of fatal childhood diseases. As a result of the widespread practice of immunising young children in our society, many lives have been saved and the diseases have been reduced to almost zero.
In previous centuries children died from ordinary illnesses such as influenza and tuberculosis and because few people had immunity, the diseases spread easily. Diseases such as dysentery were the result of poor hygiene but these have long been eradicated since the arrival of good
sanitation and clean water. Nobody would suggest that we should reverse this good practice now because dysentery has been wiped out.
Serious diseases such as polio and smallpox have also been eradicated through national immunisation programmes. In consequence, children not immunised are far less at risk in this disease-free society than they would otherwise be. Parents choosing not to immunise are relying on the fact that the diseases have already been eradicated. If the number of parents choosing
not to immunise increased, there would be a similar increase in the risk of the diseases returning.
Immunisation is not an issue like seatbelts which affects only the individual. A decision not to immunise will have widespread repercussions for the whole of society and for this reason, I do not believe that individuals have the right to stand aside. In my opinion immunisation should be obligatory.
The issue of whether we should force parents to immunise their children against common diseases is, in my opinion, a social rather than a medical question. Since we are free to choose what we expose our bodies to in the way of food, drink, or religion for that matter, why should the question of medical 'treatment' be any different?
Medical researchers and governments are primarily interested in overall statistics and trends and in money-saving schemes which fail to take into consideration the individual's concerns and rights. While immunisation against diseases such as tetanus and whooping cough may be effective, little information is released about the harmful effects of vaccinations which can
sometimes result in stunted growth or even death.
The body is designed to resist disease and to create its own natural immunity through contact with that disease. So when children are given artificial immunity, we create a vulnerable society which is entirely dependent on immunisation. In the event that mass immunisation programmes were to cease, the society as a whole would be more at risk than ever before.
In addition there is the issue of the rights of the individual. As members of a society, why should we be obliged to subject our children to this potentially harmful practice? Some people may also be against immunisation on religious grounds and their needs must also be considered.
For these reasons I feel strongly that immunisation programmes should not be obligatory and that the individual should have the right to choose whether or not to participate.