Many Governments around the world have implemented different measures to increase vaccination rates. As stated earlier, countries such as Australia and America have applied measures that withdraw certain privileges should parents choose not to vaccinate their children, through the “No Jab, No Pay” program and the Californian Senate Bill 277. Other countries have applied similar tactics; Slovenia’s current policy requires mandatory vaccination for nine diseases, and Malaysia implements mass vaccination at most public schools. Though these methods have been effective in increasing vaccination rates, they can also take away one of our most basic ethical rights, the right to autonomy; that is, the right to make our own decisions.
Other countries employ different methods. Places such as Germany, France and South Africa do not force vaccinations by withdrawing privileges. They do however, recommend that parents chose to vaccinate their child, whilst also allowing them the freedom to opt out for whatever reason. Whilst this does allow parents some autonomy, it also increases the likelihood that some parents will choose not to vaccinate their children for whatever reason. This leads to herd immunity thresholds not being met and then outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases occurring.
Therefore, we suggest several possible ideas that allow both autonomy for individual parents as well as increasing rates of vaccination in order to protect the community as a whole from the devastation that these diseases can cause.
At in individual level
- If you are already pro-vaccination, ensure that you are up to date with all your vaccines. It is always good to ensure that you are protected against these illnesses, whilst also protecting those around you. To go a step further, have an open constructive discussion with someone who is on the fence or even anti-vaccination. Don’t dismiss their opinions, listen to them and discuss you side of the argument. This helps everyone clarify facts
- If you are sitting on the fence, go to your local medical practitioner- they are there to help! Talk about your concerns, discuss all the risks and benefits of both sides and make sure you are fully informed to make your own decision and the decision for your children.
At a community level
- Ensure schools, day cares, community centres, doctor’s surgeries and other public places provide education to all on the risks and benefits of vaccines. This can be done through pamphlets, more in depth studies and research, and educational seminars. This information must include all evidence showing risks, adverse reactions and side effects, as well as benefits and risks from not vaccinating.
At a national level
- Governments should work in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies to ensure full transparency of the risks vs. benefits of the vaccines they produce. This information should be widely available, along with accurate information on the risks vs. benefits of not vaccinating. This decreases the publics mistrust in the pharmaceutical industry and allows parents to make correctly informed decisions on their own.
- Ensure that vaccines are easily accessible and at low cost to the whole community, including those in rural and remote areas. This may sound expensive for the government to cover, however more money will be saved as less people will have to access the health care system due to catching a vaccine preventable disease.
Please leave any comments below if you have any further ideas or suggestions!