Thanks to Dr. Judy Stone for tweeting the link to this article in The Daily Beast: Thank You, Croatia: All Hail Mandatory Vaccinations. Excerpt, and then a comment:
This week, Croatia moved far ahead of the United States and countless Western European countries in the realm of public health. They weighed the evidence for and against mandatory vaccination of children, summarizing the problem as follows: “The child's right to health is more than the rights of parents to the (wrong) choice.”
(Attention non-Croatians: The above summary comes courtesy of Google Translation, which renders the text intelligible if a little stiff, as if an old-school 007 bad-guy were speaking).
And with this insight they decreed that childhood vaccination—for measles and hepatitis and pertussis and diphtheria and all the rest—will be mandatory throughout the country. No more guff from anti-vaccine parents allowed.
Yes, Croatia, home region of Josip Tito and a part of Tito’s Yugoslavia till 1991, the place that also spawned actor Eric Bana and coach Nick Saban, a country ranked 84th in the world with an annual GDP of about $78 billion and a population of 4.5 million, a country that just joined the European Union last year—that Croatia—is now setting the global example for intelligent, evidence-based public health.
This raises an issue that's vexed me ever since I was a school trustee over 30 years ago. Parents tend to think of school as a convenient babysitting service with training for some future job. That is, they think of school as a service for themselves, not for their kids.
As a one-term wonder trustee, I had a different take: Parents produce citizens, and it is in the state's interest, not the parents', to educate those new citizens. After all, the kids will be running the state before we know it. They are the future proprietors of a democracy that will be no better than they are. So they'd damn well better know how to do it right or our own retirements will be deeply unpleasant and needlessly short.
No, I didn't say so to the parents and voters of North Vancouver. I'm not entirely dim.
But the same principle applies in public health as in public education. Every citizen and resident has a right to good health care, regardless of the opinions of their neighbours and the people they happen to live with. And this is not mere altruism; a healthy fellow-citizen is going to help take care of us, and is less likely to transmit some stupid preventable disease to us or our children.
No doubt parents have ancient rights to fill their kids' heads with fantasies, whether about the Poky Little Puppy or Cinderella or a divine being who creates galaxies like dandruff but obsesses about people's sex lives.
(OK, I admit I do sometimes worry about bacteria swapping illicit genes and viruses putting their hooks into membranes where they don't belong. But I don't obsess about it, and I don't do anything about it except wash my hands and blog. And get my flu shots.)
Still, the kids receiving the fantasies should at least have bodies as healthy as we can make them, if only so the kids will grow up and pass along the same fantasies to the next generation.
I've seen some dramatic changes in 73 years (I'm still getting over the fall of the Berlin Wall). But I don't expect to see any government tell its citizen-parents that their kids are citizens too, with rights whether the parents like it or not.