The Vaccine Information Network, an online community of parents who think children are being "poisoned" by vaccines, recently published a message describing measles as a mild and harmless disease that leaves a "stronger and healthier child in its path" .
In fact, measles is a highly contagious virus that can attack the protective fat sheath that surrounds the nerves of the brain and spinal cord, and children die a horrible death, said pediatrician Rick MacDonald of Ontario. "People who post these things do not understand the complications of these diseases," said MacDonald, who fears that anti-vaxxers are becoming more rebellious, "more cruel" as measles outbreaks develop.
Overall, reported cases of measles have increased 30% worldwide since 2016, a resurgence fueled in part by the misinformation about safety of vaccines and bots from Twitter and Russian trolls spreading anti-vaccine messages. The World Health Organization warned that countries are at risk of losing decades of progress against measles and other preventable childhood diseases, while experts warn that Canada's vaccination rates make the country a "seated duck" for outbreaks.
Now, with vaccine hesitancy a growing concern around the world, a leading ethicist is asking a provocative question: If parents do not vaccinate their children, should the state do it for them?
"I want to emphasize a moral stance that I do not think has received enough attention and that all children have the right to be vaccinated," said Arthur Caplan, founding director of the medical ethics division of NYU Langone Medical Center. in a recent video comment posted on Medscape.
"We continue to talk about the rights of parents to say" yes " or & # 39; not & # 39 ;, to avoid mandates or requirements, or do what they choose to do. But a child can not protect himself against measles or the flu, "he said.
I want to point out a moral stance that I do not think has received sufficient attention and that all children have the right to be vaccinated
"Someone has to talk and say," Well, what about the kids? Do not they have rights? ""
Tens of thousands of children in the US and Europe are being denied vaccination because of misinformation about their safety, and parents who still cling to vaccines "cannons" cause autism, Caplan said.
"If someone comes in and says they do not want their child to take care of Western medicine when they have diabetes or meningitis, we go to court and we nullify their refusal because we know they have the right to live," he said. said. "They have a chance in life just like anyone else. Why not take the same attitude towards vaccination?
In Canada, about one tenth of the children are now being vaccinated, which means that about 750,000 young Canadians do not have immunity against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and measles.
Caplan argues that under the rhetoric of "freedom of choice", parents are overriding the rights of children to be protected from deadly infections. "I'm not saying that vaccines are 100% risk-free, but the case for using them to keep babies and children healthy is overwhelming," he said.
Globally, countries are moving away. In January, France took another eight compulsory vaccines for school attendance, bringing the total to 11. In Australia, parents who oppose the vaccination of their children are at risk of losing childcare benefits and rebates. And in California, three years ago, legislators have revoked vaccine exemptions for philosophical or religious reasons. All children attending day care centers and schools in California must be immunized against 10 illnesses unless they have a medical exemption certified by a licensed physician.
In an interview, Caplan said philosophical or religious exemptions should be abolished. Most religions would argue that it is important to protect the interests of children, he said.
"No religion, except perhaps Christian Science, actually opposes vaccination. There is no mention of (vaccines) in the Bible or in the Hindu text or Buddhism. "
There is a basic human right to health care. Children have to be honored by them – they can not do it alone
Unvaccinated children should be kept out of daycare centers and schools during outbreaks, parents should lose benefits such as Australian law "in the jab, on the pay" and any parent whose unvaccinated child injures another child should be held civilly liable, he added.
"There is a basic human right to health care. Children have to be honored by them – they can not do it alone. So when parents do not, the state has a role to play and help vulnerable children. "
No parent in Canada may be forced to vaccinate their child. Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick have mandatory entry laws in schools, but all three allow non-medical exemptions for religious or conscientious reasons, and in Ontario non-medical exemptions are increasing.
Caplan is not alone in asking for mandatory vaccines.
"We should no longer tolerate religious refugees than tolerate parental convictions based on absurd conspiracy theories," wrote biochemistry blogger Udo Schuklenk of Queen's University. "Irresponsible parental conduct that is endangering the well-being of their children does not deserve social accommodation."
Others say that it is not a simple argument.
"We have parents who decide not to give their children blood for surgeries. Or who denies a child's right to chemotherapy for cancer? Said Dr. Noni MacDonald, a professor of pediatrics at Dalhousie University in Halifax. "In some cases, the courts have agreed that this is such a serious condition that parental decision-making must be overturned."
"But the problem we have here is that you are looking at an entire population of children's best interests."
Compulsory vaccines may risk alienating parents, she said.
"The penalty will be" will I put you in jail? "Or" will I take the child to care? "And how should you police this penalty? You can make a philosophical statement that I think all children should be immunized and we should ignore the objection of conscience, but what is the" how ? "
Compulsory school entry vaccines turn the problem into a conflict of competing values - "the value of immunization against the value of the school" – when both are important to the child, MacDonald said.
"It's more complex than just yes or no."
National Post Office