Mandatory vaccination of children is a controversial topic in the United States, where many people have negative preconceptions about vaccination and are unwilling to vaccinate their children. However, achieving a high percentage of vaccinated children is essential to ensuring the well-being of this population and preventing outbursts of various diseases. This letter will show that the current policy on this issue is inadequate and that an urgent change is required to prevent negative consequences.
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Mandatory Vaccination of Children
The need to vaccinate all children has been recognized ever since vaccines became a widespread disease prevention method. As a result, all states have regulations regarding the vaccination of children in schools and other learning institutions. Nevertheless, most states’ legislation also provides for exemptions, thus allowing the parents of some children to refuse to vaccinate their child. For example, in Florida, both medical and religious exemptions are allowed (Florida Department of Health, 2016).
While medical exemptions are based on objective health data, such as the presence of a particular condition, parents can request a religious exemption freely by stating that the required immunizations conflict with their beliefs or practices. As a result of religious exemptions, thousands of children remain unvaccinated every year. Several other states also grant exemptions based on religious or philosophical beliefs, as reported by Crawford (2019). This creates a significant gap in legislation, which should be addressed by federal regulations.
The need for change is based primarily on the concept of herd immunity and the threat of disease outbreaks resulting from poor immunization rates. According to the National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO, 2017), herd immunity means that if a high percentage of people in the community are vaccinated, the risk of epidemics decreases substantially. Thus, even if a small number of unvaccinated people become ill, it will not result in an outbreak.
Given that some people cannot receive vaccinations due to medical reasons, the suggested change is to make child vaccinations mandatory on the federal level and refuse exemptions based on philosophical or religious beliefs. While this change would still allow people to receive medical exemptions, the share of vaccinated children will become higher, thus achieving herd immunity on a national level. This, in turn, will promote population health and reduce healthcare expenditures associated with preventable diseases, such as measles or pneumococcal disease.
If the proposed change is implemented, each state will experience a percentage increase in costs compared to the share of non-medical exemptions that used to be issued. For example, in Florida, 1.7% of children received religious exemptions from vaccinations in 2015 (Veiga, Alcantara, & Dapena, 2015). Hence, if child vaccinations become mandatory and these exemptions are not only allowed, the state will face an increase of 1.7% in costs associated with childhood vaccinations. Compared to the costs of treating preventable diseases and their complications, this increase is minor and will result in reduced healthcare expenses in the long term.
The issue of child immunization is particularly relevant to nursing, as nurses see the consequences of poor vaccination rates regularly. Thus, nurses can become important change agents during policy change. In the present case, the nurse will provide all the required information and assistance to policymakers to support the decision-making process. They could also introduce the issue to policymakers and contact professional agencies, such as the American Nurses’ Association, to ensure support of the bill.
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Crawford, L. (2019). This is how Florida parents are avoiding vaccinating their kids. 10 News. Web.
Florida Department of Health. (2016). Exemption from required immunizations. Web.
The National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO). (2017). Vaccines protect your community. Web.
Veiga, C., Alcantara, C., & Dapena, K. (2015). Half of Florida counties meet state’s vaccination goal. Miami Herald. Web.