More Thoughts On Forced Vaccinationby Doug Mataconis
I wrote last month about Maryland’s effort to force parents to vaccinate their children against chicken pox and Hepatitis B by banning children who haven’t received the shots from public school. Now the District of Columbia is on the verge of imposing it’s own vaccination requirement:
The D.C. Council opened its legislative year by introducing a bill that could make the District one of the first jurisdictions in the country to require girls younger than 13 years old to get a new nationally debated vaccine against cervical cancer.
Female students enrolling in the sixth grade would be asked to show proof of receiving the vaccine against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) under the bill, introduced yesterday by council members David A. Catania (I-At Large) and Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3).
A parent or legal guardian would have the right to “opt out” of the requirement, Catania said, but the bill does not detail under what circumstances exemptions would be permitted.
Even if you accept the public health argument that is generally made when the issue of mandatory vaccination comes up, this one doesn’t seem to be justifiable. Like Hepatitis B, the HPV virus is not easily transmissible; you can’t get it by sitting next to an infected person on the subway. To catch it, you have engage in sexual activity. If you’re targeting people who might be at risk for getting this disease, you’d be better off concentrating on a segment of the population that is actually engaging in the behavior that puts them at risk.
To be fair, the proposed law would have a provision allowing parents to opt-out of the requirement, but it is not clear how that could be done or under what circumstances an opt-out would be approved. The precedent, however, of making this vaccination mandatory, though, would be created, and it’s unlikely that it would be long before any opt-out would be eliminated.
The more important point, though, is that school board members and City Council members should not be putting themselves in the place of parents and making medical decisions like this.