Should Vaccines Be Optional?

Yesterday, Governor Chris Christie remarked that parents should have some measure of choice on vaccination. He moderated his remarks by adding, “with a disease like measles there is no question that kids should be vaccinated.” Senator Rand Paul’s remarks were much more controversial, “I have heard many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with serious mental disorders after taking vaccines.” Within hours both inter-party and intra-party divides began to occur on the issue. Here is what I believe:

First, vaccines save lives. That is clear. Diseases like Polio, Measles, and Chicken Pox have been all but wiped out thanks to vaccines. The government has enough of a vested interest in preventing widespread, contagious, infectious diseases such as these to justify requiring a vaccine. However, medical decisions such as these are inherently personal, and people should be allowed to have input on them and make their own decisions.  Here is what I believe to be the best way to reconcile people’s freedom of choice with public safety.

  1. Require students in public school to take vaccines for widespread, contagious, and infectious diseases such as polio, measles, chicken pox, etc. These diseases have been successfully thwarted by vaccines, and they have been perfected to be safe and harmless. Private schools will have the right to choose whether they want to require vaccines, and homeschoolers will not be required to take them.
  2. Allow experimental and non-vital vaccines to be optional. Experimental vaccines such as the Ebola vaccine should not be required for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, we should not require people to take a medicine with unknown health risks and side affects. Non-vital vaccines, such as the vaccine for HPV, are a good idea, but the government has no vested interest in the public health by requiring them, and to do so would violate freedom of choice.

 

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