Vaccinations should be required by law

In Washington, parents can opt to to not vaccinate their children, putting the community at risk.

Surya Hendry, Feature/copy editor

It should be common knowledge that vaccines are necessary to keep our community safe. However, in 2015, the state of Washington had a vaccination rate of 77.1 percent, giving the state one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation. As a community, lawmakers and voters have given individual parents too much leeway, endangering the community. The only way to remedy this would be government-mandated inoculation.

When parents choose not to vaccinate their children, they harm the herd immunity threshold, the rate of vaccination needed to eradicate a disease within a community. Washington is far below this threshold. Those who cannot receive vaccinations, such as the very young and very ill, may catch illnesses due to the actions of a few irresponsible parents.

In-state legislation often fails in its mission to protect its community from easily-prevented disease. Washington is one of a few states that allows for exemption on both religious and philosophical grounds, allowing for a range of excuses to avoid inoculation. These excuses may be based in fear or may stem from the belief that immunity to seemingly eradicated diseases, such as polio, are unnecessary in today’s society.

Allowing for these excuses can only be harmful. Continuous vaccination is the only factor that keeps diseases like polio eradicated. Although parents do have the right to determine what is right for their child, they do not have the right to determine this at the cost of community safety. This is what the state of Washington currently allows parents to do.

On multiple occasions, initiatives have been introduced to reverse this primitive policy and institute government-mandated inoculation, which would require vaccination in all cases regardless of religious or philosophical persuasion. On multiple occasions, these initiatives have fallen flat. By failing to create and realize initiatives and bills that would eliminate the religious-and-philosophical-grounds loophole, lawmakers and voters leave their own community vulnerable to dangerous disease.

Should voters and lawmakers create a law to enforce government-mandated inoculation, current safety issues caused by the anti-vaccination movement would disappear. The vaccination rates would reach at least 90 percent, achieving the herd immunity threshold that is necessary to protect the most vulnerable.

Until a law requiring inoculation goes into effect, Washington voters and lawmakers will continue to fail in their responsibility to protect their society, and ultimately, themselves.