Table of Contents
The United States has, from my European perspective, always been a country that leaves ample space for personal freedoms — including, but absolutely not limited to, parental rights. Compared to many European parents, American parents have enormous freedom to decide whether or not to vaccinate their children.
It's obvious and obviously sane that those children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons — because they have immune system disorders that would make vaccinating dangerous, for instance — can be exempt from mandatory vaccine laws. Only a year ago, 48 US states also allowed for a religious exemption, allowing parents who feel vaccinating would violate their religious beliefs to opt out. Furthermore, a total of 17 states allowed for a personal belief, conscientious, or philosophical exemption to vaccination. This essentially means residents in those states could choose not to vaccinate if they believed vaccines to be dangerous, ineffective, or simply unnecessary.
That's changing now. A recent measles outbreak in Disneyland, California, was the catalyst that made state legislators introduce bill SB 277, the most stringest vaccination law in the US to date. The move was made after rates of non-vaccination rose, along with cases of diseases that are known as "vaccine-preventable".
This law removes religious and personal exemptions, though the religious part may still be challenged on the grounds that it violates the constitution, which guarantees religious liberty. When SB 277 comes into force, unvaccinated children who do not have a medical exemption wil not be allowed to enroll in the public school system, and even private school, private and public preschool, and afterschool programs are covered by the bill. It's not weird to assume that California's new bill will set a precedent, and that other states will follow suit by introducing similar bills.
The law has, to say the least, proven controversial. It has strong supporters, but also strong opponents, mainly among parents who prefer to retain their right to make medical decisions on behalf of their children. The debate has a strong political component, but it's above all about public health. Here at SteadyHealth we offer scientifically-accurate health information, but we do think it's both important and fascinating to learn why some people are so very strongly opposed to mandatory vaccinations.
Do you think opposition to vaccines has increased in recent years? If so, why?
Yes. Law makers insist on the view that the science is unequivocal and that vaccines are safe and effective. But anti-vaccination movement activists, who rely on their own sources of scientific research, parental concern and intuition, fear the increased pressure on parents’ right to decide what is in their children’s best interest.
One of the reasons the anti-vaccine movement has gained momentum in recent years is precisely this increased pressure which has made parents even more suspicious. The increasing number of doctors who oppose mandatory vaccination and the existence of independent peer reviewed research that questions vaccine safety and effectiveness have made parents less likely to relax and trust their government.
The level of pressure and psychological manipulation the government employs in its attempt to crush the anti-vaccine movement culminates in Jimmy Kimmel’s message for the anti vaxxers: "Vaccinate your kids, you dumb assholes, or don’t bother expecting any medical treatment from your doctors because you know better, so go fix your own broken head. How dare you question what most doctors agree on?" Leaving aside whether or not most doctors agree on the issue of vaccines, doctors also used to promote smoking not very long ago. What lies behind this message? Is Kimmel, whose show is on ABC, which is owned by Disney, whose profits were severely affected by the outbreak, truly concerned about our kids’ well-being?
There is this belief that most doctors are pro-vaccine. A large number of them certainly are, which is due to their personal belief, their education and experience, but there is also their fear of being labeled a quack and losing their job, or a possible personal benefit.