Immunization of children is a significant public health topic that has been widely studied and discussed. Despite the advocacy of healthcare agencies and organizations, such as CDC and WHO, many parents still perceive vaccines as either dangerous or unnecessary in today’s world. Immunization proved to decrease children’s mortality and disability resulting from preventable infections. Thus, by refusing to immunize children, parents put their lives and the well-being of the community in danger. Immunizing children is crucial to ensure a healthy population, and should thus be mandatory except for medical contradictions in all states of the U.S.
One of the key arguments in support of mandatory childhood immunizations is that they proved to be effective in improving health outcomes of children all over the globe. Some studies attempted to outline the possible effects of reduced immunization to stress its benefit for public health. For example, Whitney et al. estimate that the U.S. Vaccines for Children Program prevented over 70,000 of measles cases between 1994 and 2013 (355). Furthermore, the program has prevented over 5,000 of diphtheria cases, of which 10% would have resulted in deaths (Whitney et al. 355). The total number of hospitalizations precluded by the program is 21,055 (Whitney et al. 355). Besides improved health outcomes, reduced number of hospitalizations also decreases the overall burden of infectious diseases in the U.S. healthcare sector.
Another important argument for immunization of children is the elimination of diseases that were previously impacting populations worldwide. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), vaccines are the key reason for the elimination of many infectious diseases in America. Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that, due to vaccines, measles has been eliminated in four of six global regions: “transmission no longer occurs indigenously, and importation does not result in sustained spread of the virus.” Other infectious diseases will follow a similar pattern if the rates of immunization among children are sufficient.
Furthermore, mandatory child immunization would help to maintain what researchers call a “herd community.” According to Song, maintaining a 95% immunization rate would help to preserve a “herd community,” which protects the health of the entire population from an outbreak, not just those who have received the vaccine (541).
One popular argument against mandatory childhood vaccination is that, since the rates of infectious diseases such as measles or diphtheria are already very low, there is no need to expose children to the stress of immunization. Sadique et al. argue that parents’ intention to immunize children highly depends on the perceived risk of the disease (1). For instance, during an epidemic, vaccination rates are rising due to the increase in perceived risk. During normal circumstances, however, parents might not want to immunize their children because they are not exposed to the disease and thus do not view it as a major threat. Nevertheless, it is crucial to understand that the reason for low occurrence of measles and other diseases today is the high rate of immunization (HHS). If vaccination rates decreased below the recommended figure, the conditions that have previously been eliminated might return.
Overall, mandatory immunization of children would help to improve population health throughout the U.S. Apart from preventing deaths, disabilities, and hospitalizations in thousands of U.S. children, immunization could lead to the elimination of dangerous diseases and establish a “herd community,” protecting the population from outbreaks. The advantages of mandatory immunization of children far outweigh its perceived risks, which is why it would be beneficial for the entire nation.
Sadique, M. Z., et al. “The Effect of Perceived Risks on the Demand for Vaccination: Results from a Discrete Choice Experiment.” PLoS One, vol. 8, no. 2, 2013, pp. 1-5.
Song, Geoboo. “Understanding Public Perceptions of Benefits and Risks of Childhood Vaccinations in the United States.” Risk Analysis, vol. 34, no. 3, 2014, pp. 541-555.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). “Five Important Reasons to Vaccinate Your Child.” Vaccines Gov, n.d., Web.
Whitney, Cynthia G., et al. “Benefits from Immunization during the Vaccines for Children Program Era—United States, 1994–2013.” MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 63, no.16, 2014, pp. 352-355.
World Health Organization (WHO). “Vaccination Greatly Reduces Disease, Disability, Death and Inequity Worldwide.” WHO Programmes, n.d., Web.