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EDITORIAL: No vacillating on vaccines

A doctor's assistant applies a Band-Aid after giving a vaccination to an 11-month-old child in Berlin, Germany in 2015: "While most diseases are more severe if you get them as an adult, hepatitis B is paradoxically worse if you get it young," Christopher Labos writes.
A doctor’s assistant applies a Band-Aid after giving a vaccination to an 11-month-old child. — file photo

It’s a shame that it has to come to this.

But it has.

In New Brunswick, the provincial government is preparing to pass the toughest rules for vaccination in the country. Under the rules, all students in New Brunswick public schools or in licenced child care will have to be vaccinated, unless they have a medical exemption signed by a physician.

Without that exemption, an unvaccinated child would have to go to a private school or be home schooled instead. The rule changes are coming as New Brunswick struggles through a measles outbreak in Saint John, and a whooping cough outbreak in Fredericton.

Neither outbreak would have reached the point they have if vaccination rates were higher.

Refusing to have your children vaccinated doesn’t just have health risks for them, it threatens the lives of other children and adults as well.

It is 2019, and it seems ridiculous to have to restate the obvious, but parents refusing to have their children vaccinated has meant diseases that were virtually eradicated in the Western World, diseases that can do tremendous long-term damage to their victims, are now on the upsurge. Countries that used to be certified to be measles-free, like Britain, for example, have lost that status as vaccination rates have fallen. Worldwide, the number of measles cases is three times what it had been — and highly infectious measles can have permanent results, including brain damage.

Refusing to have your children vaccinated doesn’t just have health risks for them, it threatens the lives of other children and adults as well.

Vaccination only works across a population when a certain percentage of citizens are vaccinated; it’s called herd immunity, and it helps protect the fraction of the population that either can’t be vaccinated, or for whom a vaccination fails to create an immunity.

Here’s New Brunswick Education Minister Dominic Cardy, speaking to the committee: “If you believe in evidence-based decision-making, you have to look at the evidence, and the evidence is incontrovertible. …The anti-vaccination movement threatens kids and it threatens their lives,” he said. Saying that anti-vaxxers “influence, mislead and deceive” parents with false information, Cardy added, “There are no two sides around the safety of vaccines.”

There are personal rights, and there are public responsibilities.

Think of it like this: if you want to get blind drunk and drive your car around at high speeds on a track you’ve built on your own property, that’s your own business. You face your own consequences.

But if you want to take that same drive on a public road, where you’re risking the lives of other innocent, law-abiding citizens, that’s something else again.

That’s not turning a province into a police state, as some opponents to vaccination have described it — it’s the protection of the public as a whole.

Opt out of society’s rules about safety, and you may find you have to opt out of its benefits as well.

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