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Vaccination — Century Of Personal Choice And Obligation To Public Health

While vaccination is compulsory in developing countries like India and Bangladesh, parents in the United States have the choice to not vaccinate their children. Number of children who don’t receive vaccination has increased by 400 percent since 2001. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officers are concerned about children, who go to kindergarten and preschool because they aren’t receiving the minimum necessary protection against vaccine-preventable diseases. At the national level, there hasn’t been much change in the number of parents who vaccinate their children against those who don’t. That is because it is an average of all years combined and 17 years is too little a time period to make a huge change in numbers.

A CDC analysis confirmed that over 1.3 percent children born in 2015 didn’t receive even one of the recommended vaccinations. It was a sharp increase compared to 0.9 percent in 2011 and 0.3 percent percent in 2001. Amanda Cohn, senior adviser for vaccines at CDC and a pediatrician, said that over 100,000 children under the age of two years aren’t vaccinated against 14 deadly illnesses. More than eight million children were born in the last two years but this trend has got health official worried. On talking about vaccination, Cohn said that there are two types of parents. One who choose not to get their children vaccinated and other who want to but aren’t able to do so.

Measles, which was eradicated from the United States in 2001, returned to the country in 2008 with 64 cases reported. In 2017, Minnesota went through the worst measles outbreak after a very long time. Several rumors started making rounds that American citizens who were against immigrants coming into the state spread wrong information about the measles vaccine. Almost all 75 children who contracted the disease were Somali American children. Two more likely causes of parents not vaccinating their children include urban-rural disparity and lack of good insurance coverage. In 2017, two percent of children between the age of 19 to 35 months in rural areas of the United States didn’t receive the recommended vaccination.

Another data revealed that seven percent who weren’t vaccinated in 2017 did not have an insurance. 0.8 percent of them had private insurance and one percent had Medicaid. CDC is especially concerned about the fact that children that have Medicaid and are uninsured are eligible for free vaccination under the Vaccines for Children program, which is funded by the federal government.

What started the anti-vaccination movement?

It all began during the 1800s in the United States and England when people rebelled against smallpox vaccination, forming an anti-vaccination league. Edward Jenner, the physician who pioneered smallpox vaccine, told parents that he could prevent their children from getting the disease if he injected the young ones with lymph fluid of cowpox blister. Even though his idea was a brilliant one, he was publicly criticized for the discovery.

Parents were scared and fearful about the vaccine and losing their children if they were injected with it. While for the remaining ones, it was about moral standards because it was against personal liberty. The American government passed Vaccination Act of 1853 that made vaccination of children up to three months old compulsory. Another law, Act of 1867, made vaccination compulsory for children up to 14 years of age. Immediate penalty would be authorized in case of refusal. Instead of calming down the resistance movement, it only got aggravated leading to launch of several anti-vaccine journals and magazines.

Controversy surrounding Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis vaccine elevated during the mid 1970s in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. It was because of a report released by Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, the United Kingdom, that more than 36 children suffered from neurological damage after getting the vaccine.

Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine controversy is the most recent one. Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor, announced publicly that more research needs to be done to see if there is a possible connection between the vaccine and autism and bowel syndrome. After that, he said that the vaccine wasn’t properly tested before released for public use. All this happened in 1998 and after almost two decades, in 2010, Wakefield revealed that he bribed by a law board to spread the wrong information. He was disbarred and wasn’t allowed to practice medicine ever again.

Social, ethical, and legal perspective

As human beings, everyone has the right to choose what they want to put in their body or not. However, it doesn’t mean who put the lives of others at risk. We live in a society where we are dependent on one another for survival. Keeping truth about not being vaccinated is against your ethical responsibilities.

A clear and transparent mode of communication should be practiced, so that people are aware about any significant danger. Approach towards creating a safe healthcare system that goes beyond boundaries and protects social harmony should be taken. A health information system that has a definite structure should be established, so that people receive unbiased and personalized accommodation, despite their beliefs about vaccination. It should also help develop a preventive vaccination strategy.

On the other hand, physicians should respect the choices made by parents and other people. In such situations, clinically judging them won’t help the case. All communities should practice vaccination record keeping, which can be easily accessed by health and medical agencies under the federal government. Individuals who are against vaccination should sign an authenticated form, which should be added to the online system so that a clear record is maintained.

Build healthcare without boundaries where vaccination isn’t forced and considered a valuable option to protect everyone from deadly yet preventable diseases, ethical, legal, and health risks.

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