Vaccinations: A Parental Responsibility

Following the deaths of several children exposed to disease by unvaccinated classmates, the issue of whether children’s vaccinations should be obligatory in order to attend public school has sparked considerable debate. Parents of school-aged children, teachers, school nurses, and school officials all have an important stake in this issue, and a responsibility to engage with the debate in order to reach an appropriate solution. The possibility that one’s child might be exposed to potentially fatal disease due to the choice of other parents to not vaccinate their children is a risk that many parents find unacceptable. Others argue that the imposition of vaccinations is a violation of their fundamental rights, and that their access to education should not be impinged by their free choices. The main problems implicated in resolving this issue are the risk to vaccinated children who are exposed to unvaccinated children, the possibility of adverse health effects as a result of vaccination, and the ethical implications of interfering with the parental right to choose on behalf of their children whether or not to accept vaccination. Each of these is discussed below.