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Port: There should be consequences for refusing vaccinations

Rob Port column sig
Rob Port
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MINOT, N.D. - Over the last week I’ve published a print column and a podcast about the vaccination issue, noting the resurgence of communicable diseases like measles and the rise in the number of North Dakota parents opting their children out of vaccines.

The response to these pieces was ugly.

My inbox and social media feeds filled up with angry readers and listeners who insist that vaccines are a profit plot by the pharmaceutical industry. Who believe in vast conspiracies, including everyone from academics to public health officials to politicians, who promote vaccines because of one nefarious motivation or another.

Don’t try telling these folks about the well-documented, inverse relationship between vaccination rates and suffering/death from diseases like polio and chicken pox. It’s not the medicine, they tell us. It’s something else.

Their arguments are tissue thin. When challenged for information supporting their claims they demand that you read some crank’s blog post, or watch a “documentary” produced by the discredited originator of the thoroughly debunked vaccinations-cause-autism claim .

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But what they lack in logical, factual discourse they try to make up for in volume.

The important thing to remember is that their numbers are small. While the rate of nonmedical exemptions is increasing, a little under 95 percent of kindergarten parents are still choosing to vaccinate their kids.

Either the anti-vaccination movement is tiny, or it’s large and a lot of them are lying and vaccinating their kids anyway.

My point in all of this is to suggest that we could perhaps solve the problem of vaccination opt-outs with some simple public policy changes. It wouldn’t really impact that many people, based on the numbers I just mentioned, but it could stop the growth in opt-outs.

I’m not talking about forcing vaccinations on people. The government mandating medication is a bridge too far for this limited government conservative. But I wouldn’t be against some consequences for people who choose not to vaccinate.

Already there is a requirement for vaccination to attend public school. Unfortunately we’ve created an exemption to the rule so large the requirement is basically meaningless. Thus, we should end the personal belief exemption for vaccinations.

Don’t believe in vaccinations? Fine. You can homeschool your kids, because the private schools require vaccinations too.

I’d be willing to expand this, too. Want to attend a public university? Want to qualify for state-backed loans or student aid? Great. Get vaccinated.

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Again, vaccination should absolutely be an individual choice. But there’s not a thing wrong with that choice having consequences. Especially when the consequences for society caused by those choices - which are more disease, more suffering, and more deaths - are very real.

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.

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