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READER'S CORNER: Case for mandatory vaccination is strong

"Why should I have the right to jeopardize the health of entire communities by refusing vaccination for myself and my children?" writes Irene G. Wilkinson. - Reuters

IRENE G. WILKINSON

It is difficult for right-minded people to understand why, in the face of irrefutable evidence of the efficacy of vaccinations, even some intelligent people ignore the science and fall for fake news. It is clear that we need better education around vaccinations and motivational strategies for people, especially if they are parents.

Here in Nova Scotia, we have the lowest vaccination rate in the country. At the suggestion of mandatory vaccinations (with exemptions for those with certain underlying medical conditions) our minister of health reports that he needs more time to explore the efficacy of changing laws around vaccinations. Meanwhile, preventable diseases are spreading at an alarming rate. Measles has seen a 30 per cent increase in incidence worldwide, due largely to the reluctance of irresponsible, misguided people who fall for the “warnings” on social media or who are easily influenced by those who ignore the science.

More than 35 per cent of European countries have already implemented mandatory vaccinations for specific diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella for all children under 18 months. The World Health Organization is working with countries and partners to improve vaccination coverage. How much proof does our minister of health really need?

France, home to one of the highest rates of vaccine mistrust in Europe, made eight additional vaccines mandatory for babies born from 2018 onwards, including vaccines against hepatitis B, pneumonia and meningococcal diseases. The country’s vaccination rates rose due to changes in the law. Similarly, in Australia and some American states, non-vaccinated children cannot be admitted to any kind of collective institutions such as nurseries, kindergarten, schools or any social activity if they have not complied with the vaccine mandates. No exemption other than medical contraindication is accepted.

Italy has made similar changes to its laws around vaccination. That country made another six vaccines mandatory in July 2017 after a large outbreak of measles that affected more than 4,000 Italians. Their vaccination rates increased. In Romania, there are sanctions and penalties for parents who refuse to vaccinate their children unless there is an underlying medical condition.

There is no doubt that mandatory vaccination increases vaccination rates, which, subsequently, has an enormously positive effect on the health of communities. Although, here in Canada, we would need to circumnavigate the Charter of Rights to implement such a law, in this case protecting a parent’s right to choose, many people believe mandating vaccinations should seriously be considered. I agree.

After all, I do not have the right to walk into a theatre and yell “Fire!,” so why should I have the right to jeopardize the health of entire communities by refusing vaccination for myself and my children?

We have a moral obligation not only to protect our children but to protect ourselves and those around us. If it is against the law to kill, and for people with HIV not to disclose their condition to their sexual partners, surely shouldn’t putting large numbers of people in danger of contracting a disease like measles, which can be fatal, be against the law as well?

Irene G. Wilkinson lives in Halifax.

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