Should Child Vaccination be Compulsory?

The debate about whether vaccinating children should be compulsory is emotionally charged and controversial.

The medical profession is overwhelmingly in support of vaccination, with some going as far as to say that failing to vaccinate your child can be deadly and amounts to child abuse.

On the other hand, opponents claim that there is no credible evidence that vaccinations are effective, asserting that they may do more harm than good.

But considering the medical evidence, should parents who refuse to vaccinate their children be seen as neglectful, or even abusive?

Dr Michael Gannon of the Western Australian Medical Association has told the ABC that he is alarmed at the low rates of vaccination in some suburbs of Perth, including affluent areas.

He has long declared that failing to vaccinate a child is a form of abuse, citing the potentially severe and life-long health problems that can be caused.

Gannon argues that vaccinating your child protects other children also, because it lowers the chance of sicknesses spreading.

He says that if more than 95% of the population were vaccinated, it would create a ‘herd immunity’ which would protect the minority who are not.

And Gannon is not alone in condemning parents who do not vaccinate their children.

Author Roald Dahl emotionally pleaded with parents to vaccinate their children after watching his little daughter die from a complication following the measles decades ago, before a safe and proven vaccine was widely available.

Measles was almost wiped out in the Western world, but is now re-emerging due to lower vaccination rates.

At the other end of the spectrum, an Australian author from Queensland has written a book called Melanie’s Marvellous Measles, which apparently highlights the benefits of having measles.

And anti-vaccine campaigner, osteopath Dr Sherri Tenpenny, was forced to cancel her Australian tour over the outrage that some Australians were demonstrating towards her views.

According to the World Health Organisation, measles is one of the leading causes of death amongst young children, even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.

It costs about one-dollar to vaccinate a child, and the measles vaccine has been used for over 50 years.

Before widespread vaccination, it killed millions of children each year.

Most deaths come from complications arising out of the disease itself, but other effects can include blindness, encephalitis (which causes brain swelling), pneumonia and ear infections.

America is currently experiencing the worst measles outbreak in 20 years, blamed on parents who, either from obstinacy or fear, do not vaccinate their children.

Does failing to vaccinate your child amount to child abuse?

Parents, guardians and caregivers have a legal duty to provide their children with the necessities of life: adequate and proper food, clothing, nursing, accommodation, access to education and medical aid.

A failure to provide these basics could potentially constitute an offence such as child abuse or neglect.

Under section 227(c) of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998, the penalty for significantly harming the physical development or health of a child or young person in NSW is a maximum fine of $22,000.

But does not vaccinating your child amount to depriving them of essential and potentially life-saving healthcare?

And how far should the government be able to legislate into the upbringing of children?

Under section 42B(1) of the Public Health Act 1991, schools must request the parent of a child to lodge an immunisation certificate with the principal, containing all the vaccinations the child has had.

However, being vaccinated is not mandatory, and parents who object can still refrain from vaccinating their children.

Yet, since the failure to vaccinate can be deadly, some believe that parents should not have the choice.

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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.
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