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CHILDHOOD IMMUNIZATIONS - Whose Rights Matters Most?

The current epidemic of Measles in Washington State is but one instance of, once nearly eradicated, deadly diseases now recurring and spreading around the world due to a failure to properly immunize populations against those diseases. Some poor countries have felt that they didn't have sufficient money to maintain immunization programs. That is not the case in the U.S. where enough people have decided that their 'right to choose' whether to have their children vaccinated, or not, has created an epidemic of Measles. Does this issue not come down to the essential question of individual freedom versus the common welfare of any collective society? Isn't is generally understood in society that the expression of one's individual freedom is limited by the extent of it's infringement or negative effects upon another individual and the general public?

In this case, whatever a parent's reason for not immunizing their children against known contagious diseases, their decision not to have their children vaccinated has caused an outbreak of a disease that can lead to permanent brain damage or death. This fact puts officials in the position of considering an individual's right to choose versus the threat to other people's lives that the first individual's choice creates. Some have suggested that unvaccinated children are such a risk to the whole community that, if the parents of those children's right to choose is acknowledged and upheld, that those families should be permanently quarantined so they can't infect other people who have protected themselves by vaccinating their children. It's difficult to argue with the right of others to protect themselves from known danger by containing that danger in the only way 'the right to choose' has left them.

Yet, another crucial consideration of many is that parental refusal to have their children vaccinated is child abuse. They suggest that by subjecting a child to the higher probability of that child dying from contracting a disease which the parent refused to have the child vaccinated for, is negligent homicide. It is generally accepted that parents have an obligation to adequately provide for the needs of their children and to keep them safe from harm. It will continue to be debated to what extent the belief system of parents entitle them to treat their children differently from societal norms. It has already been determined that parents do not have the right to sexually abuse their children, or to sexually traffic them, or to sell them into slavery, or to starve them, or to so physically abuse them to the point of causing permanent physical damage, or to withhold medical care that would result in imminent death, and such. How far removed from all of that is knowingly depriving a child of readily available medical care that presents a high probability of that child becoming ill and possibly dying? That point will surely be argued in the courts. But, I believe that if these outbreaks of diseases continue to occur in the U.S. due to a high incidence of parents refusing to vaccinate their children, that the public will call for those unvaccinated people to be quarantined at a safe distance from the general population, and I can't fault them wanting to protect themselves



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