According to Canadian site CBC News, over 1,000 students in public and Catholic elementary schools in the Waterloo, Ontario, region were suspended for not having required vaccinations. The list of required vaccines included tetanus, diptheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and meningococcal disease.
While this may seem like a long list of diseases, it doesn’t encompass every disease for which the CDC recommends a child receives a vaccination before age six. However, the list covers most of the potentially deadly diseases that a child could catch, or spread, at school.
But should students be forbidden from attending school because they had not been vaccinated?
In most cases, yes.
Despite anti-vaccination groups’ best efforts to find true, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence that vaccines cause large-scale harm, no such information has been found. Overall, experts like the CDC, the FDA, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend that children be vaccinated against diseases to ensure their health and well-being.
Students who do not receive these vaccinations will be vulnerable to these preventable diseases. That is, if they come into contact with them. But not every students has to be vaccinated to ensure that most students are protected. This is called community immunity (or herd immunity).
It’s easy to believe that because most of the other students are vaccinated, these students do not have to be and, therefore, they should be allowed to continue attending school. However, this is an unsafe practice for multiple reasons.
First, vaccine failures do occur. According to a study titled “When, where and how do immunizations fail?” (available on PubMed.gov), this can happen because of a “failure of the immune response, whether due to inadequacies of the vaccine or factors inherent in the host.” Meaning, that some students who received the vaccines may not have developed a proper resistance to the disease due to factors that are almost uncontrollable.
And second, there are certain groups for which vaccines are not recommended. The CDC provides a detailed list of whom these people are, broken down by vaccine, on their website.
For the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, those with HIV/AIDS, certain blood disorders and cancer should not be vaccinated. These groups are dependent upon others’ vaccinations to keep them healthy.
Other students (and their parents) have a responsibility to these people. When they decline to become vaccinated, they have failed to perform this expectation and should not be able to take advantage of the benefits of a public education until they have complied.
This does not equate to robbing the students of their right to an education. We live in the modern era, and (in the United States at least) there are online public schools available. Much like home-schooling, these online schools provide students an education but do not require them to physically go to a public school.
Until the students and parents choose to help ensure the safety of the other children at the school by receiving their vaccinations, they should not be given even the slightest chance to spread potentially deadly diseases.