Should The Government Force You To Vaccinate Your Children ?

That question is raised by reports that, starting in January, several counties in Maryland will bar students from public school who haven’t been vaccinated for Chicken Pox and Hepatitis B:

Thousands of Maryland students could be barred from classes after the holiday break because they have not been vaccinated against chickenpox and hepatitis B, as required by the state’s latest immunization schedule.

Local health departments and school systems have sent repeated notices on these sixth- through ninth-graders, made follow-up calls in numerous jurisdictions, run ads on radio and in community newspapers and offered free clinics. But response continues to lag as the Jan. 2 “exclusion date” nears.

Students who return to school next month without a record of being immunized — or, in the case of chickenpox, without the month-and-year documentation of when they had the disease — by law should be kept from attending school. The only exception would be those who arrive with proof of a pending medical appointment to get the shots. Their grace period ends Jan. 22.

And the requirement will expand. By 2009, all students in Kindergarten through Grade 12 will be required to have been vaccinated for these two disease before being allowed entry into the public schools.

The question, though, is whether the government even has the right to force parents do vaccinate their children. The only justification, of course, is if the disease in question is a threat to public health. Except in rare circumstances, though, Chicken Pox is not a fatal disease in children or even adults, although it can have a more devastating impact if you are infected when you’re older. Hepatitis B is a more serious matter, of course, but is not easy to transmit.

Given this, it’s hard to see why, beyond accepting the idea of the government as the nanny deciding who should be vaccinated against what and when, parents should be forced to have their children vaccinated against either of these diseases.

Who do you trust more to make the right medical decisions for their children, parents or a bureaucrat at HHS ?

On the whole, I’m more apt to trust the parent.

  • Joe

    Sadly enough, I’m going with the bureaucrat at HHS who probably has a college degree and some understanding of the potential harm an epidemic can cause.

    You’d be surprised at how many bad parents there are out there – some of them smoke crack.

    And besides, no-one is forcing you — you can always home-school or send your kids to a private school.

  • mike
  • KipEsquire

    A cold isn’t a fatal disease either, but that doesn’t mean I have a right to sneeze on you.

  • Doug Mataconis


    You don’t have a right sneeze on me, but i also don’t have a right force you to take Nyquil if you have a cold.

  • KipEsquire

    Doug, very bad analogy: Vaccination prevents transmission and therefore corrects an significant externality; NyQuil doesn’t.

    It does, however, make a dandy egg nog!

  • Doug Mataconis


    Yea its a crappy analogy actually.

  • Joe

    Mike, “So sure about that one Joe?”

    Yeah, I’m sure no-one is forcing you to send your kid to a public school, so therefore no-one is forcing you to vaccinate your kid.

    You may be required to shower before entering a public pool … that doesn’t mean the government is “forcing” you to shower. If you want to avail yourself of the facilities, then you comply with the pre-conditions.

    And yeah, I’m sure some parents smoke crack.

  • Annette M. Hall

    The state of Maryland allows any parent to submit a medical or religious waiver for the required vaccines, just as every state in the country has some form of waiver available.

    The form is available at: