As a parent, you make decisions for your child on a daily basis. Whether you are the sole custodian of your child, or share joint custody, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made with regards to your child’s education, upbringing, health, etc. But what happens when your decisions regarding your child’s upbringing and health have a negative impact on others? This is the question at the center of the child vaccination debate, especially in light of the measles outbreak at Disneyland where 52 cases of infection originated.
One Parent’s Decision Can Pose a Threat to the Rest
At the center of this epidemic is the debate of whether there should be criminal or civil charges for not vaccinating your child, and for the child infecting another child who later dies as a result. The reasoning behind criminal and/or civil liability attaching to these parents is that their decision for raising their child poses a significant threat to the public as a whole.
Why Parents Choose Not to Vaccinate
Those parents who decide not to vaccinate their children do so largely for two reasons: one, it is against their religious beliefs, and/or two, they believe that immunizations are harmful to their child and could be the culprit behind their child being autistic. (The connection between immunizations and autism has been disproven in the last couple years; the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has put forth a statement that immunizations do not cause autism.)
However, the way vaccinations work, about 95 percent of vaccinations are effective in children; five percent of all children that receive an immunization will contract the disease. When the population is largely immunized, the disease can be kept in check; this is known as herd immunization. But when fewer children are vaccinated, then easily communicable diseases may run rampant throughout the population.
Vaccination Rates in Illinois
Vaccination rates are considerably low for children in Chicago, according to an article published by NBC Chicago. In the report’s statistics, it was found that 369 public and private schools boasted rates of more than 10 percent of the student population not having been vaccinated for any one of the serious communicable diseases required. In some of these schools, almost 76 percent of the children were not vaccinated for one or more of these diseases. The report also suggests that there has been little to no enforcement that schools report their vaccination numbers to show compliance with the state laws. (Schools, in order to receive funding, must report their vaccination rates to show that they are enforcing vaccinations within the school.)
Illinois Laws about Vaccination in Schools
In Illinois, the school systems require that children are immunized before they can attend school. There are only a couple of exceptions that the state will be acknowledge: if the child is allergic to the vaccine or if the parent has a religious objection to the immunization. Illinois does not permit as an exemption parents who are simply opposed to vaccines for no justifiable reason, though 19 states recognize a parent’s right to object just because they prefer to opt out of the vaccinations. The big problem noted is that many times, though a parent may state there is a religious belief for not vaccinating his/her child, there is no further investigation into the claim; this makes it easy for parents to suggest a “religious belief” without actually holding this conviction.
Could Criminal or Civil Penalties Work?
Though criminal or civil penalties could have the effect of increasing the vaccination rate, even among the most anti-vaccination parents, it could still be very difficult to prove that the parents are civilly or criminally liable for the danger that their unvaccinated child poses for himself or for others. To prove that the parents were tortiously negligent for civil damages, the injured party would have to prove that the parents owed a legal duty to the injured party (and other injured parties), the parents breached that duty with their actions, that the breach of this duty was a direct cause or proximate cause of the harm suffered, and the injured party suffered as a result.
Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County
Your child’s health is of the utmost importance and as a parent (or co-parent), you have a duty to protect, care for, and educate your child. The family law attorneys at Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices can help advise you on the myriad of issues surrounding the upbringing of your child. Contact our dedicated DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.
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