The UK government should introduce compulsory vaccination – Conservative Article
Vaccination is the single most effective way of preventing the spread of infectious diseases. In the UK, the NHS offers vaccinations at birth and booster jabs throughout childhood to prevent them from getting unwell. Since this introduction, we rarely see diseases such as tetanus, smallpox and polio, which used to kill millions of people.
However, despite extensive public health campaigns and the overwhelming evidence supporting vaccination, a worrying trend has emerged over the past few years. Some parents are opting against immunisation for their children. The effects of this ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement have seen a surge in previously eliminated diseases.
In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the UK measles-free. However, three years later our country lost this status due to a rise in cases caused by unvaccinated children. Despite this, vaccination rates in England continue to fall.
Groups such as ‘Crazymothers’, which have hundreds of thousands of social media followers, regularly publish anti-vaccination propaganda online. Some are even claiming that diseases ‘hoaxes’ spread by the government.
The freedom these groups have to spread such misinformation, which many celebrities support, means they can be extremely dangerous. In a recent case, a mother of a four-year-old boy in Colorado consulted an online group for advice on treating her son who had experienced flu-like symptoms. She noted she refused to give her son Tamiflu, the most common antiviral medication prescribed to treat flu, as advised by a doctor. She was encouraged by group members to try “breastmilk, thyme and elderberry”, none of which are medically advised. Her son died a week later.
In December 2019, a measles outbreak in Samoa prompted a national emergency. It claimed the lives of 62 people – 54 of whom were children aged four and under. The UN, UNICEF and the WHO blamed the crisis on anti-vaxxer groups and the discouraging of vaccinations through online movements. They argue social media platforms had a “corporate responsibility” to prevent false health information spreading.
Publications such as Andrew Wakefield’s 1995 study linking the MMR jab to autism (which has been widely discredited), coupled with social media allows unsupported claims to spread rapidly. It misinforms parents and creates distrust towards medical practitioners. Following Wakefield’s study, there was a sharp decline in vaccinations in England. It still has an impact today.
In 2018, over 80,000 people contracted measles across Europe. This is an alarmingly high increase, more than tripling the 25,000 cases in 2017. In response to these worrying statistics, Italy and France introduced regulations making the measles vaccination compulsory for all children starting school. This became known as the “no jab, no school” policy. Parents who do not vaccinate children in these countries face fines and their children face exclusion from pre-schools and nurseries.
A study into the effectiveness of this policy found “all other countries would benefit” from the introduction of compulsory vaccination in school-age children. It also shows a rise in general vaccination coverage in Italy.
Scientists estimate 95% of a community must be vaccinated to maintain herd immunity. In England, only 87% of children receive their second MMR jab. This means we are far from WHO targets. In order to eliminate measles in the UK, the authors of the study suggest a similar policy of compulsory vaccination for school entry.
One cannot directly blame anti-vaxxer groups for causing the deaths of others. However, their ability to spout false and misleading information freely on social media must be restricted.
In 2019, Boris Johnson launched a campaign to prevent anti-vaxx information spreading. It aims to prevent parents from being misled by offering ‘evidence-based advice’.
Now in the midst of a global pandemic, we see eager anticipation for a vaccine like never before. The WHO has said an effective and widely distributed vaccine is the “one great hope” of beating COVID-19. CNN even interviewed a former ‘anti-vaxxer’. They said the current crisis allowed her to ‘reflect on the value of vaccines’ since witnessing the danger an uncontrollable spread of a virus can cause.
As a parent, your priority will always be the safety of your child. Therefore it is understandable why publications claiming that vaccinating babies will give them autism, other disabilities or illnesses will raise alarm. Introducing compulsory vaccination in the UK will encourage parents to see that the science is strong enough to disregard unsubstantiated claims. Vaccines are the most simple, and most effective way of protecting one’s child.
Written by Conservative Writer, Emer Kelly
Point of Information
Mandatory measures will miss the mark if we don’t recognise the real mistakes – a Labour response
It may seem shocking to many of us that arguments over the validity of vaccines continue to surface, despite the devastating toll of the current crisis. After all, the WHO estimates that vaccinations saved 10-15 million lives between 2010 and 2015 alone. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the introduction of immunisation represents the most important advancement in the history of healthcare.
All of this and more is outlined in Ms Kelly’s response above, which is informative and interesting. However, in spending so much time showing what is going wrong, the article doesn’t address why this is happening, nor the ways in which we could make things right.
I admit the appeal of mandatory vaccinations is immediate. But is it really as simple and straightforward? Whether or not you support the measure, you have to recognise that for some it would be deeply unpopular. Moreover, it would set a dangerous precedent about the government’s right to force medical procedures on people. As a result, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to pass into policy.
That’s not to say obligatory vaccinations aren’t useful under certain conditions. As Emer points out, Europe leads the way on this question. Following the scientific advice, measures enforcing mandatory vaccination for school children are in place, with refusal resulting in fines and being forbidden from attending education.
As the debate rages around the safety of reopening schools, we should remember how difficult it is for the young to follow social distancing. Seeing the advantage in a law like this is easy. What’s more, it could be selectively extended.
Mandatory vaccines for those working in health and social care could help prevent the terrible suffering we’re now witnessing there. We already ask people to show their criminal record. Why couldn’t we do the same with a health record, to help protect the most vulnerable?
These measures may all do good in the short term. But the tragic irony is that those who are most likely to suffer from the spread of disease are often the least likely to get vaccinated. To only focus on what we’ve said above would be like treating the symptoms without dealing with the disease.
In order to address the real reasons why people are spurning the science, we should start by looking at our current cabinet. I’m sick of being asked to pretend like it wasn’t the ruling party which spent the last decade cruelly underfunding health and social care. Again and again, leading Tories have insulted and ignored the very experts upon whom they now supposedly rely. Worst still, they purposely passed on the costs of their ruinous policy of austerity to the working class, to minorities and to the most vulnerable. Is it any wonder these same groups now don’t trust what the government tells them?
More mandatory measures just won’t win them over. Instead, we all have to provide the education, empathy and good government to prove that politics can work with people, for people. My Conservative colleague could spend some time thinking about that instead.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Evan Saunders
The lack of trust people have is the biggest concern! – a Liberal response
Now, I know that many of you may of stopped reading at this point. Above are fantastic, but heavy articles.
If you’re still reading, I commend you. In order to keep you interested just a minute longer, I want to change the subject. The anti-vaxx movement is a drop in the ocean to other growing conspiracy theories. Mainly forming against the government. Claims that Covid-19 is a hoax, the earth is flat, we never went to the moon, the world is ruled by lizard people!
Obviously, I picked a few of my favourites there. But beneath this, there is a growing trend. We don’t trust anyone anymore. In particular, the government and experts. Every time I think this, I think back to Michael Gove. I can still see him peering over his glasses saying ‘Britain has had enough of experts’. Unfortunately, I think he is more right than he knows.
People hate politicians these days. They don’t trust them or believe a word out of their mouths. This is the same for experts who advise them. Why do you think we have seen such a rise in populist leaders who claim to truly speak for the people?
That is what Ms Kelly has missed here! People don’t trust government and experts anymore. This is what needs to be fixed. Should we make it mandatory? Personally, I’m not against that idea. Yet I do feel much more comfortable with the idea that people just trust politicians because they trust their government.
It is a sad reality. I don’t really blame people for hating politicians. There are so many reasons for the lack of trust. I would probably put more blame on the media today than on the actual politicians and experts. However, this is what needs to be solved first – trust. If we don’t, enforcing mandatory vaccinations may, unfortunately, cause a rise in the anti-vaxxer movement.
Written by Liberal Writer, Max Anderson