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Childhood vaccines must be mandatory.

Byline: Coleen Nolan

* he controversy about making childhood jabs mandatory rages on and has preoccupied the British Medical Journal recently.

l This is a subject on which I feel strongly. Childhood vaccination should be compulsory.

t d If such a law were brought in it would probably mean that a child wouldn't be admitted to school without evidence of having received the full complement of immunisation against common infectious diseases of childhood.

Don't throw up your hands in horror. This law already exists in several European countries. They think we are crazily eccentric to be allowing parents to opt out.

In a perfect world, such a law would be unnecessary. Parents would learn that measles causes pneumonia and brain damage, mumps causes deafness and sterility, rubella causes severe birth defects, whooping cough causes suffocation and permanent l d d HPV lung damage, and HPV causes cervical, mouth and anal cancers.

Though not entirely free of risk, the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risk. Armed with this information, parents would have an easy decision to make. But it is not a perfect world. Alongside convincing science runs false, i l di d f d l misleading and often anecdotal claims, whose appearance in magazines, radio, TV and the internet obscures the truth.

Parental choice, I hear you say, is sacrosanct. Well, parental choice has condemned children to homeopathic asthma remedies instead of life-saving bronchodilators, bogus cancer cures instead of effective chemotherapy, prayer instead of crucial insulin and antibiotics. Children have died needlessly.

Parents often don't realise that when they opt not to vaccinate they are also choosing on behalf of those children with whom their own come in contact. Some will be vulnerable because they can't be vaccinated - very young babies, people receiving chemotherapy or immunosuppressant drugs. These people depend on those around them to be protected. So is it right for a parent to make decisions that affect the health of others? The BMJ's advocate of mandatory vaccination, Paul Offit, quotes a measles epidemic in Philadelphia, US, in 1991 that centred on two fundamentalist churches that had decided not to vaccinate their children. Hundreds were infected and six died.

Which is more important: the freedom to make bad health decisions or the right of the community to protect itself from those decisions? I know which side I'm on: the community.
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion, Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 12, 2012
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