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Health vs Choice? The Vaccination Debate.

On Sunday 3 November, OUC’s Dr Alberto Giubilini participated in a debate on compulsory vaccination at 2019 Battle of Ideas Festival (Barbican Centre, London). Chaired by Ellie Lee, the session also featured Dr Michael Fitzpatrick (GP and author, MMR and Autism: what parents need to know and Defeating Autism: a damaging delusion); Emilie Karafillakis (Vaccine Confidence Project); and Nancy McDermott (author, The Problem with Parenting: a therapeutic mode of childrearing).

Governments in some countries, like Italy and France, have introduced new measures to compel vaccination against specified diseases, linking proof of vaccination to children’s access to state-provided schooling. In April, the city authorities in New York went further, introducing mandatory vaccination for adults and children in parts of Brooklyn unless individuals had proof of previous vaccination or a medical exemption. Failure to comply could lead to a stiff fine or even imprisonment.

These measures are presented as a necessary expression of the public good, of the right of children to be protected from serious and sometimes life-threatening diseases, and of the need to uphold truth against lies. However, the turn to compulsion has led some commentators, even some who support vaccination, to raise questions about these measures. Some say compulsion, in any form, is inferior to efforts to educate and persuade. Others point out that pinning the blame on anti-vaxxers and parents committed to ‘alternative health’ explains little about vaccine rates in many countries or about what influences the decisions of parents whose children go unvaccinated.

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