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Head To Head

Should childhood vaccination be mandatory? Yes

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 15 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2434
  1. Paul A Offit, chief of infectious diseases
  1. 1Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
  1. offit{at}

Paul Offit believes that mandatory vaccination is needed to protect vulnerable people from infection, but David Salisbury (doi:10.1136/bmj.e2435) argues that there are more workable ways to ensure high uptake

In a better world, vaccine mandates wouldn’t be necessary. Parents would educate themselves about the diseases that vaccines prevent and learn that measles causes pneumonia and brain damage, mumps causes deafness and sterility, rubella causes severe birth defects, pertussis causes suffocation, and human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical, oropharyngeal, and anal cancers. They would learn about the remarkable safety and effectiveness of vaccines. And they would learn that although vaccines are not free of risk, their benefits clearly outweigh their risks. Mostly, they would learn that vaccines stand on a mountain of scientific evidence. Well informed: the choice to vaccinate their children would be an easy one.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. In our world, science based information is often obscured by false and misleading claims readily available in newspaper and magazine articles, on radio and television …

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