Sticking Points

July 1st, 2008 by Kathy McManus

The debate over immunizing children.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

If you choose not to have your child vaccinated against measles, mumps, chicken pox, and other infectious diseases, does your responsibility end there?

It’s a debate that continues as the trend for not vaccinating children increases.

Parents who believe that vaccinations are linked to autism, balk at government regulations that bar their unvaccinated children from attending school if they don’t have the required shots. One anti-vaccination group calls forced vaccination "a violation of human rights."

But those on the opposite side of the argument say not vaccinating violates the rights of others. According to officials at the Centers for Disease Control, "The decision not to vaccinate is a decision for your child but also a decision for society." They say that unlike other medical issues where refusing treatment affects only the patient, refusing vaccinations puts others at risk as well, including newborns and people with suppressed immune systems.

Parents of unimmunized children rely on the vast majority of kids who do get their shots, figuring there’s little polio, measles, chicken pox or other pathogens to be found among so many protected kids. But with recent measles outbreaks in four states, that protection may not be enough. "We are seeing outbreaks that look different, concentrated among intentionally unimmunized people," says an immunization official. "I hope they’re not the beginning of a worse trend."

Tell us what you think: When it comes to vaccinations, do parents have a responsibility beyond their own children?