Saturday, February 10, 2007

Get your hands off my kids' bodies

There are a pair of articles in today's Billings Gazette that deal with mandatory vaccinations. One, written by Martin Kidston of the Independent Record, reports on the efforts by Sen. Carolyn Squires, D-Missoula, to make HPV vaccination mandatory for all pre-adolescent girls. The other is an AP article on a bill sponsored by Rick Jore, C-Ronan, that would "allow parents who don't vaccinate their children because of religious beliefs to send them to a preschool or day care center licensed by the state."

The latter issue has some complexity, since there is some theoretical risk to others (namely babies and small children who haven't finished their vaccinations) in making that choice. It is a minuscule risk, since preschools and day care centers are generally segregated by general age group -- in other words, children who haven't finished their vaccinations are already going to be around a fair number of other unvaccinated children who haven't finished their own vaccinations.

Cervical cancer is a horrible disease, causing death and suffering to women in the prime of their life -- and it is all caused by a sexually transmitted disease. Refusing the HPV vaccine, however, poses no risk to anyone -- except to other girls and women who have also chosen (or whose parents chose) not to be vaccinated for HPV. In other words, if one looks on refusing to give the HPV vaccine to one's child as risk-taking behavior, the only ones at risk besides their child are others whose families have chosen that risk as well.

Mandatory HPV vaccination, pure and simple, is a "we're mandating this because we know what is good for your children's health care better than you do" law -- not a "we're mandating this so you don't hurt innocent people" law.

Even regarding the day-care vaccination law, it is interesting that Don Judge of the Montana Nurses Association is quoted as saying that allowing children without vaccinations to attend licensed day-care centers and pre-schools means "imposing that choice upon the 95% of other parents who haven't made that choice."

Mr. Judge should know a little more about epidemiology than that -- for nearly all communicable diseases, 95% immunization rates are well above the threshold level that is required to keep a population essentially free of that disease.

Montana Headlines is of the opinion that parents should be allowed to opt-out of any given immunization for their children, for any reason, no questions asked. Whether because of religious beliefs, or because of they don't want to be forced to have a given substance injected into their child's body, or because they don't want to be putting money into the pockets of a drug mega-corporation like Merck (whose lobbyists were at the hearing to provide support for the bill) -- it shouldn't matter. They aren't directly harming their children, and because they won't have to risk a reaction to the vaccine, they are arguably lowering their child's immediate risk of harm.

By the same token, day-care centers and preschools should have the right to decide for themselves whether to accept unvaccinated children or not.

For the record, all Montana Headlines children were duly vaccinated with all mandatory immunizations, and probably would been even had they not been required. The issue is really more one of disinterested curiosity, since really all that parents who don't want their children mandatorily vaccinated are saying is "keep your hands off my kids' bodies."

It is fascinating that liberals are generally the ones most adamant in their insistence that the government has the right to lay hands on children's bodies when it comes to vaccination. Yet they don't at least acknowledge that they are denying others the right to use one of their own favorite rallying cries.

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