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Should there be compulsory childhood immunisation?

13 June 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 11


Richard Griffith, Senior Lecturer in Health Law at Swansea University, considers whether childhood immunisation should be made compulsory or left to parental choice.

Childhood immunisation is a key tool in disease control and the main instrument in the government's campaign to achieve the World Health Organization (WHO) target for interrupting indigenous measles, poliomyelitis, neonatal tetanus, congenital rubella and diphtheria transmission (Spika et al, 2003). However, rates of immunisation have fallen with anti-vaccination messages on social media being blamed for increased parental concern about the safety of vaccines (Moran, et al, 2016). UNICEF statistics show that half a million children did not have vaccinations in the UK between 2010 and 2017 (UNICEF 2018). As a result, immunisation uptake for the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine at around 91% in England remains lower than the 95% rate required to achieve population immunity needed to effectively interrupt the transmission of disease (NHS Digital, 2018).

The Health Secretary has recently suggested that the government would not rule out compulsory vaccinations in England to overcome the public health risk caused by lowered immunisation rates (Mohdin, 2019).

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