NYTimes hosted a debate on state vaccine laws

The New York Times “Room for Debate” blog solicits the opinions of four experts to address whether vaccinations should be made mandatory for all children.

Kristen A. Feemster, a pediatric infectious diseases physician, calls for an end to vaccine exemptions. She says vaccines are a “shared responsibility” and an example of a justified “subversion of individual choice to public good.”

Conversely, Schuster Institute fellow Jennifer Margulis compares mandatory vaccinations to a United Arab Emirates law requiring breastfeeding for a minimum of two years. She believes parents should have the choice of if and when to vaccinate their children, concluding, “Unlike in the United Arab Emirates, in America we believe parents are capable of making their own decisions about their children’s health.”

Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders strikes a middle ground between Feemster and Margulis, saying, “The only exemption from immunization should be for religious reasons.”

British public health experts David Elliman and Helen Bedford offer lessons learned from their country, where fears of a link between a vaccine and autism appeared in 1998. An emphasis was placed on educating the public, which obviated the need for legal compulsion: “If parents are coerced into vaccinating their child, it may not only damage their relationship with their health providers, but be counterproductive. Although very vocal, the truly antivaccine parents are in a very small minority.”

From my perspective, and this may be one of the first times I’ve agreed with her, I’m on the side of the former Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders. From my perspective, if you don’t want your kids vaccinated, then you have no right to send them into schools or public situations where they can be a danger to other.

Here are some of my blogs on the topic:



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