The recent emergence of pertussis (also known as whooping cough) and measles cases has led to fierce public debate about mandatory vaccinations of children. Both of these diseases were virtually eradicated in the United States through the enforcement of vaccination requirements for children attending public and private schools.
Recently, there has been resistance to childhood vaccinations by parents in some areas. Some resistance is based on a single discredited study linking vaccinations to increasing levels of autism in the US. Preservatives used to keep vaccines viable once contained trace amounts of mercury, but in a form that quickly passes through the body with no cumulative effects. Even though they had no detrimental effects, these preservatives are no longer used. However, the fear still remains in some parents.
The current political climate is also influencing some parents to refuse mandatory vaccinations for their children. They are being swayed by politicians who are using the issue to promote their views of a less intrusive federal government. The debate pits personal liberty against public safety.
Although it can be debated whether parents have an obligation to immunize their own children, their actions may affect the health of other children, specifically babies. Babies do not receive vaccinations for some diseases such as measles until they are over twelve months old, which leaves them vulnerable to measles spread by older children who haven't been vaccinated.
Measles can cause maladies such as deafness and can be fatal, especially in small children. The failure of the federal government to act in a bold manner may result in an epidemic. When measles or another easily preventable disease strikes a daycare center and one or more infants die, civil litigation will accomplish what the government has failed to do.
How can civil litigation enforce vaccination requirements?
A civil suit filed by a personal injury attorney like one from Sweetser Law Office representing the parents of a baby stricken by measles will bring attention to the problem. If a multi-million dollar judgement is awarded to the parents because of lax vaccination enforcement by local governmental agencies or school systems, it may cause a ripple effect that will effect sweeping policy changes.
Individual states should have the right to make decisions on some issues that affect their residents. However, disease doesn't recognize state borders, and if an epidemic occurs, the federal government will need to take control of the situation. Perhaps it would be wiser for the federal government to avoid epidemics altogether, and mandate vaccinations for infectious diseases for all children. Detractors can be supplied with statistics on the number of childhood deaths from preventable diseases, in countries where these vaccines are either not mandated or unavailable.