With the recent outbreak of measles, experts are trying to instill the importance of vaccinations, arguing that vaccines should be as nonnegotiable as seat belts.
"We have seat belt laws,” says Patsy Stinchfield, director of Pediatric Infectious Disease Services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. "We would never think to just lay that newborn baby down in the front seat and say, ‘I don’t really believe in car seats,’ or ’I don’t really want to buckle my child up.' ...We should have the same kind of vigor when it comes to protecting children from vaccine-preventable diseases.’”
Besides the experts, we’ve been seeing plenty of public figures, from comedians to columnists to President Barack Obama, calling on parents to vaccinate their kids. Additionally, a recent poll done by Pew Research indicates that while a majority of Americans are in favor of mandatory childhood vaccines, 30 percent say it should be left to the parents to decide.
Experts say it’s difficult to put a mandatory status or implement policies that affect a person’s freedom of choice.
Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at NYU Medical Center, says in the past, it's taken two instances to inspire a national change when it comes to public health: either a serious outbreak of disease or a national tragedy.
"You usually have to have an epidemic or a disaster or some demonstration of harm before you take away individual choice," said Caplan. "That cultural stance is not unique to vaccines. Freedom has come before public health, every single time.”
In 2014, there were 644 cases of measles, the highest since 1994. Now, in January alone, there have been 102 reported cases of measles in 14 states.