Should Government Force Parents to Have Their Children Vaccinated?

Now that Disneyland’s measles outbreak has topped 100 cases in 14 states, media outlets are quick to blame the anti-vaccination movement. They denounce “anti-vax” parents as ignorant, gullible, and irresponsible — guilty of both child abuse and endangering society with their foolhardy negligence. After all, say the pro-vaccine media, measles could find no susceptible host in a fully immunized population but can only gain foothold in, and be spread by, unvaccinated people.

Reputable sources, and even the CDC, expose the fallacy of such yellow journalism. Nevertheless, the Internet is teeming with articles about the issue, either extolling the virtues of vaccines or expounding the vices. Most, however, miss the important point, which is not whether individuals should be innoculated against infectious diseases. Instead, it’s whether government has the right and authority to mandate vaccines.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a leading non-profit medical group, clarifies the importance of the distinction. “Mandatory vaccines violate the medical ethic of informed consent,” states the organization’s Fact Sheet, which also explains that AAPS is not opposed to vaccines and has never taken an anti-vaccine position. It is, however, firmly opposed to government policies that violate parental informed consent. “A case could also be made that mandates for vaccines by school districts and legislatures is the de facto practice of medicine without a license.”