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Should vaccinations for kids be compulsory?

Washington state lawmakers are currently debating whether to remove the right of parents to opt their kids out of vaccines for ‘personal or philosophical’ reasons.

Banning parents from banning vaccines for their children has become a bit of trend recently. California ditched the ‘personal reasons’ opt-out in 2015, and Italy and Francemade all childhood vaccines compulsory for schoolkids in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

All these places were responding to a fall in the number of people getting vaccinated and a subsequent increase in the number of people getting sick from the diseases vaccines protect against. Most of these diseases are infectious, so once an outbreak starts, lots of people fall sick at once.

There’s good economic reasons for governments to want their citizens to be as healthy as possible. Sick adults usually don’t go to work (or become worse employees cos they're feeling rough AF). That could have all sorts of negative knock-on effects. Absent delivery drivers could mean your friend's present doesn't arrive in time for her birthday. Absent pilots could mean your holiday to Barbados is delayed. Absent surgeons could mean a longer waiting list for your operation. And so on.

Similarly, if sick kids miss lots of school they often learn less and get worse grades. That might mean they can’t get as highly-skilled or highly-paid a job in the future. And of course sick adults and children both require healthcare and sometimes welfare, which governments often pay for.

Despite this, some people think it’s never okay for the state to force people to get vaccinated. Particularly angry is the anti-vaxxer movement, which believe jabs are harmful to health. This belief is based on fake news and discredited medical claims (vaccinations do not cause autism), but some people argue that their individual right to choose should still supersede the wishes of the state.

Other people are worried that because these countries are refusing  to educate non-vaccinated kids, they’re depriving those children of the skills and knowledge they need to be a happy, employed, tax-paying adults.

Read our explainer on: the role of governments.

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