Should Unvaccinated Children Be Allowed Places in State Schools?With flu season upon us, my thoughts have been turning frequently to vaccinations. I’m passionately in favour of vaccines and feel that the results of mass vaccinations are indisputable. Anti-vaccination advocates often peddle myths regarding vaccines and their dangers, such as the link to autism, which has not only been found to be completely scientifically debunked but the journal which published the report have actually now retracted it because of the inaccuracies. Smallpox is one of the biggest vaccination success stories as it was declared eradicated by the World Health Organisation in 1979 after mass global inoculation programmes.

However, there are still estimated to be almost 2 million unvaccinated children in the UK alone, putting us 7% below the WHO guidelines for protecting the population from the spread of diseases. With more and more cases of measles and other potentially fatal illnesses popping up (remember the measles epidemic in Wales last year?), it got me to thinking how I’d feel if my children were being put at risk by unvaccinnated classmates.

It’s easy for parents of vaccinated children to feel that, if their child has been inoculated, they’re no longer at risk of the spread of infectious diseases, but this is not the case and its this mentality which is causing the problem. Here’s some of the ways in which unvaccinated children pose a risk to others (from the Vaccine Times):

  1. There are many children that cannot be vaccinated, for various reasons such as an autoimmune disease, allergies, or simply being too young to have received the vaccine. These children have no protection against the disease. If they are exposed to it through an unvaccinated peer, they are at risk of suffering and/or even dying.
  2. Unvaccinated children are protected by the herd immunity created by the vaccinated children. Herd immunity basically means that if enough people are vaccinated it becomes really hard for the disease to find hosts it can survive in and spread. The more children are unvaccinated the greater the risk that herd immunity will fail. If herd immunity fails, all suffer for the reasons described below.
  3. Vaccines do not offer 100% immunity towards disease. The efficacy varies; some vaccines offer higher rates of efficacy, some lower. Having received a vaccine doesn’t guarantee that a child will not get sick when exposed to the disease. Vaccines reduce the risk of contracting the disease, if exposed, dramatically, but there will always be a number of children for whom the vaccine will not provide protection. Those children will be at risk, from other unvaccinated children who may contract and spread the disease.

I feel I must say that I do struggle with this issue; I’m passionate about the right to make personal decisions freely, especially when it comes to ones children, but I also wonder what the implications of those decisions are when putting lots of other children at risk. Should schools be asking to see a completed vaccination schedule before kids are placed into mainstream schooling and should unvaccinated children be refused a place in publicly funded schools? After all, not vaccinating will directly undermine Government initiatives in public health concern, so why should the public majority, most of whom have vaccinated their children, fund their education?  Should certain standards be met before we hand out places?

In Sausage’s school, if a child has an upset tummy, they’re asked to stay off school for 24 hours until after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting to protect the other children. If they have chicken pox, they cannot return until all of the spots have dried up, not only to protect the other children but to safeguard pregnant mums or staff, as well as adult males who can be left very ill and potentially infertile if they contract the illness as an adult. Why, if a child has the potential to spread measles (which can cause encephalitis and death), mumps, rubella, whopping cough etc. are the rules not the same?

One thing I’ve gathered whilst researching this post is that the vast majority of anti-vaccination literature peddles lies and propaganda; vaccines don’t contain high levels of mercury, nor do they cause autism, SIDS or any other potentially fatal side effects. The WHO website has a great page dedicated to squashing the myths surrounding immunisations, which you can find HERE.

So, what’s your opinion? Should unnvaccinated children be allowed in state-funded schools? Would you be happy to send your child to school with unvaccinated children? I’d love to hear your opinion on this so please leave me a comment below.

11 facts about vaccinations:

  1. In the past 60 years, vaccines helped eradicate one disease (Smallpox) and are close to eradicating another (Polio).
  2. Vaccines prevent more than 2.5 million deaths each year.
  3. The impact of child vaccines is magnified when used in conjunction with other health efforts like antibiotics, oral rehydration salts, bednets, and vitamins.
  4. New and underutilized vaccines could avert nearly 4 million deaths of children under the age 5 by 2015.
  5. Vaccines cause “herd immunity”, which means if the majority of people in a community have been vaccinated against a disease, an unvaccinated person is less likely to get sick because others are less likely to get sick and spread the disease.
  6. Vaccines helped reduce measles deaths globally by 78 percent between 2000 and 2008. In sub-Saharan Africa, deaths dropped by 92 percent in the same period.
  7. There are existing vaccines that could stop rotavirus and pneumonia—two conditions that kill nearly 3 million children under the age of 5 every year.
  8. New or improved vaccines are currently being developed for HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases. Researchers estimate that a viable malaria vaccine could be ready for children in the developing world as early as 2015.
  9. Not all vaccines are given as shots. Vaccines for rotavirus and polio, for instance, are distributed orally.
  10. The GAVI Alliance has supported the immunization of more than 288 million children and as a result averted more than 5 million child deaths since 2000.
  11. Most diseases prevented by vaccines are no longer common in the United States. If vaccines weren’t used, just a few cases could quickly turn into tens or hundreds of thousands.