A third of parents think it is ok to choose not to give their children the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccination, according to new figures.
The survey of 5,004 UK adults for YouGov revealed that 30% thought it was acceptable for parents to choose not to give their kids the vaccine, while just over half (53%) thought it was unacceptable. And 17% weren’t sure.
The topic of vaccinations can be a thorny one for many parents. In the UK, whether a child is vaccinated against flu, whooping cough and other common illnesses is completely up to the parent.
While many parents take their children to receive their vaccinations without question, others worry about the side effects associated with immunisations, like the MMR, and therefore choose not to have their child vaccinated at all.
But recent research has revealed that due to some parents opting to skip their child’s vaccinations, measles cases in Europe are on the rise in a major way.
According to figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) after a record low of 5,273 cases in 2016, cases increased four-fold in 2017, with more than 20,000 people affected and 35 deaths.
Fifteen European region countries, including the UK, had large outbreaks, with measles cases being highest in Romania, Italy and Ukraine.
And according to the WHO parents shunning vaccination is part of the problem.
Although research published 20 years ago about a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been discredited, the scare it created caused some parents to lose trust in the vaccine.
But the decision about whether or not to vaccinate your child doesn’t always lie with the parents.
The mum-of-two, who was not named, was so opposed to giving her children everyday medicines that she refuses to even give her children Calpol when they are poorly.
But a High Court judge that she must comply with an order from the Court of Protection to have them vaccinated.
Some countries have also been flirting with the idea of making certain vaccinations mandatory.
And in Italy, following news that around 1,500 cases of measles were reported in the first four months of 2017, the Italian government introduced a law making 12 vaccinations mandatory for preschool and school-age children.
Parents will now have to provide proof of vaccination when they enrol their children in nursery or preschool.
In this respect, the Italian policy follows the example of vaccination policies in the US. But there’s one crucial difference: the Italian law doesn’t allow parents to opt out on the grounds of “conscientious objection”.
Unvaccinated school-age children, up to 16 years old, will still be able to enrol in school – but their parents will be fined. The fines range from €500 to €7,500 (£436 to £6,540).
When parents are deciding whether or not to vaccinate their children against some common illnesses the NHS advises weighing up the side effect risk against that of the benefits of protection.
“When you’re considering a vaccination for yourself or your child, it’s natural to focus on the potential side effects,” the site reads. “But a better approach is to try to balance the benefits of having a vaccine against the chances of harm.”
“It may be tempting to say ‘no’ to vaccination and ‘leave it to nature,'” the site continues.
“However, deciding not to vaccinate your child puts them at risk of catching a range of potentially serious, even fatal, diseases.”
“In reality, having a vaccination is much safer than not having one. They’re not 100% effective in every child, but they’re the best defence against the epidemics that used to kill or permanently disable millions of children and adults.”
Read more from the NHS about the safety of vaccinations.
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