Anti-vaxx parents vs their kids

By: Brooke Dishman

California law gives teenagers the legal right to consent to abortions, obtain birth control, get tested for HIV or vaccinated for STD’s, even if their parents object. Should they also have the right to seek out immunization for other serious diseases such as measles or polio?

It’s a reasonable question, as measles cases continue to surge globally and in the U.S., and faith in vaccinations has eroded to the point that the World Health Organization listed vaccine skepticism as one of the biggest threats to human health in 2019. It’s one thing to allow parents to make healthcare decisions, even bad ones, for their babies and toddlers who can’t make rational choices for themselves. It’s another thing entirely to deny scientifically proven treatment to worried high school students who have followed the news and fully understand what their parents do not: that the recommended childhood immunizations are perfectly safe and not having received one puts them at risk of contracting highly contagious and serious diseases that can lead to lifelong health complications or even death.

Before wide-scale adoption of vaccinations, for example, measles killed more than 2.5 million people a year. Even now, the disease routinely kills thousands of people across the globe. A quarter of measles cases are so serious they result in hospitalization. Measles infections in children can lead to pneumonia, brain damage and encephalitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, vaccinations don’t just protect the people who are vaccinated; they also raise the level that guards against disease outbreaks and protects even those too sick to get immunized.

And despite the fears and assertions of many parents, the vaccination for measles does not cause autism. Studies have looked for and found no connection, including a major Danish study released just this month.

If kids are old enough to comprehend the danger of preventable disease, they should  be old enough to take steps to avoid it no matter what their parents think.