Friday, August 22, 2008

Compelled to Immunize

Who should have the final authority over when or if a child is immunize, the state or the parent?

Many parents, whether you homeschool or not, opt out of all immunizations; others (like us) delay and stagger the shots to minimize any negative side effects. A recent increase in the number of measles cases has many health officials are worried that if parents refuse to immunize their children, the whole community is at risk .

Skeptical of government mandates and leery of feared links to disorders from asthma to autism, parents say they’re exercising their rights to protect their kids from risk. But health officials say there’s no question that the risk of vaccination is far outweighed by the benefits of inoculation, and that those who don’t immunize endanger not only their own kids, but also the collective resistance that keeps everyone else safe, too.

“When more than 10 percent of a community opts out of vaccinations, it leaves the entire community at risk because germs have a greater chance of causing an epidemic,” said Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas, pediatrician who represents the American Academy of Pediatrics.

There is a no national requirement to immunize all children attending school, requirements vary by state; however, there are exemptions. One of the groups that is not required to immunize to enter school are homeschoolers.
Certain vaccinations are recommended for babies from birth on, but they're required nationwide for admission to school, and, in many cases, day care or preschool. Home-schooled children aren't included in the mandate.
This leaves open the question, does the government have the authority to require all parents to immunize their children inorder to protect an entire community against certain diseases? It appears some state officials think so. From the recent California court ruling (PDF), we read,

While parents generally have a parental liberty interest, California also has recognized that the “welfare of a child is a compelling state interest that a state has not only a right, but a duty, to protect.” (In re Marilyn H. (1993) 5 Cal.4th 295, 307.) ...

"As against the state, this parental duty and right is subject to limitation only ‘if it appears that parental decisions will jeopardize the health or safety of the child, or have a potential for significant social burdens.' [Citation.]" (In re Roger S. (1977) 19 Cal.3d 921, 928.)

Does the failure to immunize create a signifcant social burden sufficient to override the parents? There are parents on both sides of the issue. Jennifer Margulis selectively immunizes and rejects the idea that she is putting others at risk,

"People say, ‘You’re putting my kid at risk, but that doesn’t make any sense at all,’” she said. “If the vaccine works, I’m just putting my child at risk."

Vanessa Parker, believes parents like Margulis are "selfish."
"When I say selfish, it’s because of all the other children that could be potentially hurt,"
What do you think, is the greater good of the community sufficient to allow the state to require all parents to immunize their children? We immunize, but I'm uncomfortable with the state requiring parents to do something which the parent believes is dangerous for their own child.

Correction: There is no national requirement to immunize. The requirements to vaccinate vary from state to state. I have updated the article with the changes in red. (Thanks Daryl. If you live in North Carolina, he has some useful information here.)

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