Before joining school in the United States, children must show proof that they have been vaccinated. Currently, some states allow parents to get exemptions. In the United Kingdom, there is no such requirement. So this bring up the questions; Is vaccination of children really necessary? How safe are vaccines? How effective are the campaigns geared towards improving vaccination rates?
There has been a scare in the U.K that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine results into autism in the children vaccinated. When Scientist Andrew Wakefield stated this in his research, it resulted in a 78% drop in immunization levels in the country. The resulting effects was that there was a surge in measles cases among children. The number increased from a low of less than a hundred per year to a record 1348 cases in 2008. The number of cases has not gone down in spite of a spirited campaign to raise awareness of the safety of the vaccine to the general public.
Back to the United States, the country has seen the levels of vaccination improve to about 90%. The country also experienced the scare of the autism connection to vaccination but this did not affect the vaccination rates. However, currently there is an emerging trend of low vaccination rates in certain communities. This saw an outbreak of measles, mumps and whooping cough. There are fears that the vaccination rates may go down just like in the U.K. The requirement of compulsory vaccination seems not to be translated to vaccination levels increase. In communities where the laws governing this area have been relaxed or where the culture of vaccination lacks, there is a reappearance of vaccine preventable diseases. Due to this, a country like the U.K is considering making vaccination compulsory. Persuasion to people normally hits a dead end and therefore the state has to be creative in ensuring citizens attain immunization.
Voluntary immunization strategy where parents are educated about the benefits of immunization and dispel the myths regarding vaccine safety has not worked effectively. People are not that easy to educate. It is actually easier to scare a person instead of educating them.
It has also been established that a campaign of trying to dispel myths about negative effects of vaccines may not actually work but rather it would trigger their strong conviction in those beliefs. If one happens to tell people that autism is not connected to vaccination, they will instead remember ‘autism’ and ‘vaccination’ and create an association of both. Therefore as health personnel fight against scares associated with vaccines, the more they ignite the fire regarding the issue. This explains why vaccination trends are going downwards in spite of efforts on creating awareness to the general public.
This problem is further exacerbated by anti-vaccine lobby groups which spreads mistruths about vaccines. They go ahead as far as linking public health officials and doctors to the conspiracy that vaccination is dangerous and that they aid in hiding the truth. They further erode the little gain that the government makes on the issue of vaccination by continuing to create distrusts and half-truths. The media also intensifies the problem through scaremongering over the jabs
So how can this problem be solved? Will making vaccination compulsory be the way to go? This creates a catch 22 situation. I would suggest making vaccines compulsory even if the government faces a backlash. The hostile response can be dealt with a campaign to enlighten people on why the compulsory vaccinations are indeed necessary.
Public education forums should be rethought and reworked by gauging the public mood and disseminating information at the right time depending on the mood at the ground. For instance a campaign can be carried out dubbed ‘vaccines are effective and safe’ instead of vaccinations does not lead to autism. Avoiding the autism debate will make the public focus on the main agenda which is vaccination.
We cannot run away from the fact that sometimes fire is fought with fire and fear with fear. Parents can be made scared that their children will get infectious diseases which are preventable rather than the falsehoods over the vaccination issue. They should be given more illustrations of scenarios where vaccination was not done and the end result was contacting the disease. First hand examples would make them rethink their stand and immunize their children. Vaccines prevent many illnesses and side effects are only mild but there is no case of autism. World over, health organizations are pushing for vaccinations. These health organizations like Unicef or World Health Organization push the ideology that vaccinations works. They cannot be wrong as they are made up of renowned professionals who have got expertise in their particular specialization. Parents should be made to understand that these major international bodies cannot be wrong.
Several parent ignore these diseases even though they know the success of vaccines. Most wait until there is a major outbreak so that they can run into immunization. They should be enlightened that they should not wait until it is too late as the situation may be irreversible.
Campaigns pegged on fear may somehow not be effective. For instance they cannot deter teenagers from drinking. This though cannot be translated into parental fears over the health of the children. Therefore when the campaign of fear does not work, another strategy should be used.
Social norming is another strategy that can be used. It involves using peer pressure to affect behavior. In this case, parents can be told that majority of parents vaccinate their children. They would then feel like they are left out if they do not do the same. Therefore vaccination should be made compulsory but it should involve effective and thoughtful campaigns. A research and monitoring and evaluation program should be put in place to continuously check the safety needs of the vaccination programs. There should be transparency and the public should be often reminded that there are occasional outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases and that they should not let themselves or their children be victims.
France recently announced that all parents will be obliged to have their kids vaccinated from beginning of 2018. It is a debate that went on for a while. Some for and others against. Those opposing the move would state that there lacked a proof that compulsory vaccination actually helped boost the numbers of those who got immunized. Others stated that they the public should be educated and let to voluntary decide whether to have their children get immunized.
Vaccination should be made mandatory as it has been established as one of the most effective way of saving lives and advancing good health. It only water which is known to perform better than vaccines. There is still however low uptake of vaccines in various countries but this is mostly due to misplaced notions over vaccine safety. When vaccines prevent a disease and parents get to witness it first hand, they will then get an assurance that they are effective. This way, any suspicion or anxiety regarding vaccines are addressed then.
When the rates of vaccination decline, it has been proved that the rise of infectious diseases goes up. This is the reason why many countries are making vaccination compulsory. However, the effectiveness of the program depends on the manner in which the country implements the program.
Back to the United States, all the 50 states have it mandatory that children under five hve to be vaccinated before they enroll to school. Exemptions are only allowed on medical grounds. Only a few states allow philosophical exemptions for those who are against vaccination due to moral, personal or other beliefs.
In recent years, exemptions applications have gone up and they tend to concentrate around a geographical area which exposes certain communities at