The Debate Surrounding Vaccines

August 16, 2019
Vaccinations play an important role in preventing diseases, but there's also a lot of controversy surrounding vaccines in recent years.  What are your rights as parents when it comes to vaccines?

Vaccines have been one of the greatest advances in modern medicine. They’ve changed the course of human history by reducing the overall incidence of many dangerous diseases. They’re actually one of the best tools we have to prevent disease and to promote public health.

Vaccines are one of the most efficient instruments we have to ensure that large populations of people stay healthy. However, there are disparate views and a lot of controversy in the debate surrounding vaccines.

Vaccines are controversial because many people associate them with risks. Today there are parents who resist the idea because they’re concerned about possible harm from potential side effects. There are more parents resisting the idea that vaccines should be mandatory in many countries around the world.

The legal frameworks surrounding vaccination are also different from country to country. Most authorities and professionals in the medical community recommend vaccines because they believe they’re instrumental in protecting our fundamental rights to health.

We’ll discuss some of these issues below in the interest of learning more about our rights as patients and parents.

The legal framework for vaccinations

Within the legal framework for vaccinations, one of the most important aspects is information. It’s with this goal in mind that health professionals and governments have been sharing more information about vaccines with the general public.

They want to assure that patients and their parents in the case of minor children are well informed when it comes to vaccinations.

The Debate Surrounding Vaccines

Nonetheless, in practice, it’s most often medical professionals and nurses in health centers who inform patients and their parents about the risks and benefits of vaccinations. These teams have the obligation to assure you receive adequate and correct information, especially when parents have some doubts or reservations.

Maximum coverage is an important aspect of vaccine protocols. Without maximum coverage, some vulnerable populations become more susceptible to diseases for which there exists a vaccine.

This is because people with weakened immune systems, for example, can’t receive vaccinations. They’re usually exempt but the vaccination of the rest of the population protects them from catching these diseases.

It’s important that professionals provide parents with complete information. The information needs to be easy to understand. This includes information about all the obligatory or recommended vaccines, whether provided through government programs or covered by your insurance, and the vaccination schedule recommended.

Debate surrounding vaccines: Parental consent

In most countries, it’s the parents who give consent to vaccinate minor children. Depending on their maturity level, it’s also considered good ethical practice to fully inform children over 12 years old about what the vaccine does and how it protects them.

As another rule of thumb, adolescents 16 and older should consent themselves to be vaccinated, except in situations of risk. Then it’s best that their parents or representatives decide on vaccination on behalf of the young patient.

In the case of official vaccines, if only one parent is present at the appointment, authorities assume that parent is acting in good faith and with the consent of the other parent. The situation is different if the other biological parent has said they’re in disagreement. In that case, they need to wait for the decision of a judge.

In the case of vaccines that aren’t a part of the official vaccination program, the vaccination enters into the legal category of an elective medical treatment. The consent of both parents will be necessary.

Should vaccines be obligatory?

The subject of being required to vaccinate your children raises some issues in terms of personal freedoms and collective rights. The legislation is different in every country, but in some European countries, certain vaccines are obligatory. In Spain, for example, vaccines aren’t obligatory in the strict sense.

The Debate Surrounding Vaccines

With the obligation to get vaccines there are many legal and ethical aspects that need to be considered. Ironically, vaccines have successfully controlled serious infectious diseases to the extent that it’s now contributing to the present-day controversy.

Parents feel there is little risk of becoming infected with illnesses that now seem rare. There are many active debates in scientific journals and among vocal parents and school boards about whether to require vaccines and whether there is an undue risk of side effects.

Debate surrounding vaccines: Rates of vaccination

In effect, it seems rare now to hear of some of the infectious diseases that once affected the population, especially among infants and children. For this reason, many parents don’t consider the risk they’re taking in not vaccinating their children. Parents are more afraid of the risks associated with the vaccine itself.

The legislation of many countries now reflects this society-wide controversy. A number of countries have had to make vaccination for certain illnesses an obligatory procedure. The debate is centered on protecting an individual’s fundamental rights, like the right to health before personal liberty.

In Spain, nonetheless, the rates of vaccination continue to be high in comparison with other countries like France or Italy. In those countries, they had to make certain vaccines obligatory given the alarming decline in vaccination rates.