Should Parents Be Required to Immunize Their Children?

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In 2009 8.1million children under five died worldwide which means that every day more than 22,000 children died and 2/3 of deaths, 5.4million, were due to infectious diseases (UNICEF 2010). Mass vaccination campaigns are accepted as a number one solution to the child mortality from the preventable infectious diseases. Vaccines are one of the greatest public health attainments which from people benefited throughout the last two centuries (Stern, Markel 2005). They are the safe guardians of both children and adults. The main goal of vaccinationsis to stimulate the immune system to some contagion without suffering from natural infection (Payette and Davis 2001).In a period of time before the emergence of preventable therapies, such diseases as diphtheria, measles, smallpox and pertussis were the leading causes of children deaths. For example, a little more than a century ago the infant mortality rate in the USA was 200 per 1000 live birth, while in 2006,according to the UN Population Prospects, it was 6.3 per 1000 live births.

However, few parents recognize the possible harm of vaccines. Vaccination is not without risks, since adverse events may be observed after any vaccination. Since 1990, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) in the USA received from 12 000 to 14 000 reports of hospitalization, injuries and deaths after immunization. Moreover, only 10 % of doctors make reports to VAERS. That means every year there are more than 1 million people in the U.S. injured by immunization (Murphy 2002). In recent years, a concern regarding both the safety and necessity of certain immunizations has been raised, since the number of new vaccines had risenover the past two decades. This is supported by Murphy (2002) who claims thata child takes 37 doses of eleven different vaccines during his first five years of life.

Indeed, because vaccines are widely used and there are laws in many countries worldwide that make immunization compulsory in order to enter kindergarten and school, it is essential to pay attention to the effectiveness and side effects of the vaccines (Stratton 2003). In order to understand this, it is necessary to lookfirstly at the history of vaccine development and its process of defending humans from catching diseases, and then at risk-benefits assessment by considering two cases either making immunization compulsory or giving parents a choice. It is argued that laws making parents obliged to immunize children should stay the same since the benefits held by immunization outweigh its risks.

The history of the expansion and spread of vaccination starts with Edward Jenner from Gloucestershire, England, who did the first successful immunization in 1796 (Stern, Markel 2005). Before this, it was noticed in Great Britain that the cases of smallpox among milkmaids, who had pockmarks on their hands after cowpox infection, were the lowest. Edward Jenner took the pus from the lesion of the hand of milkmaid Sara Nelmesand entered into the 8 year old boy James Phipps. This resulted in no illness after inoculating this boy with smallpox 6 weeks after the first inoculation. After that many scientists made their own contributions resulting in devising of vaccines against cholera in 1896, the plague in 1897, influenza vaccine in 1936 and yellow fever in 1937. The introduction of triple Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine in 1969 is still representing the cornerstone of immunization pediatrics because now a single vaccine could provide immunity for three different diseases (Payette and Davis 2001).

All vaccines operatein similar ways. Through inoculation the organism gets a particular amount of either live or dead microorganisms, depending on the type of vaccine, that are the causes of the pathogenic illness (The Meningitis Trust 2008). But they are weakened forms so they are not able to cause the illness. The individual’s immune system accepts microorganisms as foreign. Those microbes enforce the human organism...
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