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When does public health supersede personal choice? The vaccination debate [Most commented]

August 16, 2011 |  4:51 pm

Line to submit proof of immunization at Huntington Park High School.
Opposition to vaccinations for children is shortsighted and detrimental to public health, The Times’ editorial board wrote Tuesday. In recent years, more parents have been opting out of inoculations for their kids due to personal beliefs and unfounded fears. With the incidence of diseases such as whooping cough and measles rising, children who go un-vaccinated are putting others at risk. There are legitimate reasons for some children not to be vaccinated -– medical concerns, some people simply don't respond to vaccines, some infants are too young for inoculation -– but it should not be so easy to opt out of vaccines, the board wrote.

All of these children are endangered by the unfounded fears of a small minority of parents. Public health depends on "herd immunity" — the inoculation of enough people to keep a disease from the larger community.

Although children are supposed to receive most vaccinations before starting kindergarten, almost all states rightly allow exemptions for religious reasons or when a child has medical problems that make vaccination impossible. But 21 states, including California, also allow exemptions when parents declare that vaccination is contrary to their personal beliefs. According to the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, more exemptions for nonmedical reasons are granted in states that make allowances for personal beliefs or where the exemption process is particularly lax. States, including California, should be reexamining the personal belief exemption and tightening procedures. It should not be so easy for relatively few people to jeopardize the health of many others.

The editorial sparked a heated debate between readers on the discussion board for and against vaccinations for children.

Parents don't have the right to endanger other people's children

Parents have every right to refuse certain medical treatments for their children, but they have no right to endanger the children of other people. Thank goodness for sensible adults who vaccinate their children. They are the ones helping to keep these diseases at bay and helping to prevent epidemiology crises. 

--JohnnyPhuongTran

There are two sides to this. What about children we believe were injured from vaccines?

Another winner from the LA times that completely  discounts the autism epidemic and the tens of thousands of children suffering all over this county.  There isn't one side to this vaccine controversy and the LA Times continues to expose only one.   They want to make those who are concerned about the safety of vaccines be responsible for those that could get sick from the flu, chicken pox or whatever for a number of reasons.  Yet, who will be responsible for our children on the spectrum, who we believe were injured from their vaccines?  We can no longer sue manufacturers of vaccines in civil court.  All the government can tell us is that we don't know what causes autism, but we know it's not vaccines.  This is not a good enough answer.  We demand that fully vaccinated vs fully un-vaccinated study of children to prove what they say once and for all.  We will keep fighting this. Join the wwwthecanaryparty and help protect all our children with chronic  disorders.

maurine Meleck SC

--MaurineMeleck

Freedom of choice

It's simple.  If you're worried about getting sick, then get the vaccinations.  If you're not, then don't.  Freedom of choice should rule the day.

--rah-62

When it comes to vaccinations, freedom of choice puts others at risk, in response to rah-62

We're talking about communicable diseases. One individual's decision to get sick can make others sick as well, including children too young for the vaccine.

--autismnewsbeat

Where is the other side of this story?

What kind of a paper just is the L.A. Times? They are suppose to give both sides of the story, with truthful and accurate information, and yet they do no research before they promote toxic vaccines, they don't report on how many people are killed or get brain damage, why isn't there a story on the damages caused by vaccines? your answer in this paper along with many others is funded by Big Pharma that does not care about our children, but only profits, that's it! The people on here that defend vaccines are either ignorant to their effects, or are profiting from them otherwise nobody in their right mind would stand up for them.

--joe-joe-vit

I'd much rather have an autistic child than a dead one

And what about my son, who was seemingly healthy until we found out that he has an untreatable immune disorder?  He can't get some vaccines, and gets sick all of the time.  I'm terrified to let him do anything, not knowing what he may contract from other kids?  I'm very much for allowing people to make their own minds up about things, but when it starts to affect my child....that's when I get upset.  Why should we have to live in a bubble for something we have no control over, when others allow their un-vaccinated children to run all over and get kids like mine sick?  He's been so sick twice that he nearly died.  So thanks for playing doctor/scientist, uninformed parent of an un-vaccinated child, and ruining my child's life.  Even if vaccines DID cause autism, is that any reason to make other kids suffer?  I'll tell you right now - my nephew has autism.  And I'd much rather have an autistic child than a dead one.

--tryingtolive

We can't let a few people’s fears scare well-intentioned parents

Thank you LA Times for your continuous efforts to educate parents on the necessities of immunizations. We cannot let the few voices scare and intimidate well-meaning parents and care-givers, who will then in return forgo vaccines for their children. Children are the most vulnerable and most likely to suffer the consequences of communicable diseases as seen in third-world countries where participation in vaccination programs are low. We have the science and the ability to protect the children, let's use it!

--melodybutler

Parents who don't inoculate their kids should be liable for medical costs caused by their child

Simple solution:

Require all parents who do not vaccinate their children to sign an agreement to pay 100% of all medical expenses caused by their child spreading a preventable disease, and to be held liable for paying civil monetary damages in any lawsuit initiated by victims of preventable disease spread by their child.

--Reedman

*Spelling errors in the above comments were corrected.

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Photo: Students already vaccinated against whooping cough wait in line to submit proof of immunization at Huntington Park High School. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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