BLOGS: Should we punish parents who don’t vaccinate their kids?

Bianca

From broken limbs to spiked fevers to random objects stuck up noses – with three kids in my household, visits to the doctor’s office have definitely become a regular occurrence.

When something goes awry with my children, I don’t put my trust in “Dr. Google” or try to remedy the issue myself, I go straight to the source that I trust the most – my own family physician.

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When I’ve received reminder calls, notifying me that it’s time to vaccinate one of my children, I’ve willingly booked the appointment. Sure, I’ve asked questions, and have expressed concerns about the ever-evolving immunization schedules over the past 11 years that I’ve been a parent, but my doctor has always answered honestly, doing her best to explain the reasons behind the changes, and the purpose of each series of shots.

Perhaps it’s the result of my trusting relationship with my own health-care professional, but I’ve never fully understood why some parents have been so hesitant, or completely against the vaccination process.

Last year, Health Canada conducted a nationwide survey titled “Survey for the Development of the Childhood Vaccination Campaign,” hoping to uncover the current state of awareness, knowledge, attitudes, belief, and behaviours of parents and expectant parents with respect to childhood vaccinations.

While the survey found that only five per cent of Canadian parents had “low trust” when it came to vaccinations, the number spiked to 13 per cent for parents in B.C.

Concerned parents who participated in the survey cited several reasons for their hesitancy, including possible allergic reactions, a lack of trust in the pharmaceutical system, side effects, toxic ingredients, and a lack of testing on the vaccinations.

While Canadian parents have been left to decide whether or not to vaccinate their children, other countries have implemented strict measures against parents who refuse to immunize their kids.

In a news release shared by the Australian government on July 1, tougher “No jab, no pay” rules have officially been enforced, emphasizing the message that “immunization is the safest way to protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases,” and that “parents who don’t immunize their children are putting their own kids at risk as well as the children of other people.”

To penalize those parents who choose not to vaccinate, a loss in family support payments will occur, equalling the sum of $28 a fortnight for each child who does not meet immunization requirements. The thought behind this change, is that this altered “No jab, no pay” rule will act as a constant reminder to parents to keep their child’s immunization records up to date, or they will literally pay for their decision.

And Australia isn’t the only region to call the shots when it comes to whether or not to vaccinate kids. Italy and France have made several vaccinations mandatory, and some U.S. states require that students have up-to-date vaccinations before school enrolment, limiting exemptions to those who are unable to vaccinate due to medical or religious reasons.

While Ontario and New Brunswick also require vaccination records upon registration for school, there are currently no official country-wide rules in place here in Canada.

If the health reports and urging of medical professionals don’t persuade parents to give vaccinations a shot, I doubt a minimal decrease in family funding will do the trick, but a change is definitely needed. I don’t think penalties are the answer, but more needs to be done to persuade parents to get on board. More testing, as well as increased education and awareness on the issues surrounding childhood immunizations – emphasizing not only the benefits, but the impact that the decision not to vaccinate has on the children of others, is definitely needed if we want to secure a healthier future for our kids.

Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor and marketing consultant. Find her online at @bitsofbee.

 

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