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Sunday, 15 February 2015

US healthcare and mandatory (measles) vaccination

Last Friday the Dutch 8 PM news had a topic about a US measles outbreak amongst others from exposing a child with measles to others in Disneyland. Later it appeared that many of the victims had not been vaccinated. Now the interesting question in some US States is whether vaccination should be mandatory or voluntary.

Unfortunately, many people tend to approach voluntary issues with common sense while mandatory issues often result into heated principle based discussions in which common sense often no longer prevails.

Proposing to make something mandatory in the USA is like asking for trouble. If you want to kill an idea then you better propose a mandatory implementation. Formerly non-political issues suddenly become highly political and often with the help of friendly media.

The protesters against mandatory vaccination do have an issue though. Even in Europe mandatory vaccination is rare. Religious objections are accepted. The discussion in the US is slightly different though. It is more of a political than a medical discussion. Some politicians even argue that parents should be free in their decision whether or not to vaccinate their (legally incompetent) children.

In most civilised and knowledgeable countries there is no debate about the use of preventive vaccination for notorious children's diseases. It is just common sense to prevent your children from highly contagious infection diseases.

The rights of an individual should not outweigh the rights of a group, let alone general public safety. Also, denying a child preventive vaccination and then bringing him/her to hospital for remedial medical treatment does not make any sense.

Some Americans now propose to sue the parents that did not vaccinate their children. In a country that is lacking collective and affordable healthcare, that may indeed be the only option left as US medical bills could well imply personal bankruptcy.

Preventive vaccination - especially for children that cannot yet decide for themselves - should be the norm. Exceptions can only be allowed on religious grounds and only if such people would also deny future remedial medical treatment. Stupidity and ignorance of parents can never be a reason for exempting (legally incompetent) children from preventive vaccination against highly contagious diseases.

I have never even understood parents denying preventive or remedial medical treatment to their children and then referring to God's wishes. The Bible clearly teaches us using our talents for the good of others (Jesus and The Parable of the Talents). Hiding knowledge by "digging a hole in the ground" was - and is - clearly not the way forward. If we were not supposed to use knowledge to our advantage then we would still be living like cavemen and hunting for animals.

The situation in the USA may require an additional approach given the absence of collective and affordable healthcare. From a public safety angle, preventive vaccination should be expensed by the US government rather than by uninsured individuals in order to protect the general public. Why would they even care about a possible future disease while hustling for today's food and bills?

Prevention now is far better and cheaper than future expensive remedial medical treatment.