Mandatory Vaccination of Children in the U.S
It is the official responsibility of all state and local governments to preserve public health. State and local governments are given powers to enact mandatory vaccine laws, institute measures such as quarantine and isolation among others. Every state in the United States of America has a law drafted to require all children being admitted into a school to provide documented proof, that they have met all the immunization and vaccination requirements of the state they reside in. exemptions are, however, provided for religious, medical or other valid reasons, although these vary from state to state. Those whose immune systems are compromised in one way or another, or are allergic to certain vaccines and have proof of this, or anyone with any contraindications to vaccines is exempted from vaccination. This applies in all states. Nearly all states, with the exception of West Virginia and Mississippi, provide exemptions for people who reject vaccines due to religious reasons. Several cases on the subject of mandatory vaccinations, mainly for children, have been reported from various courts in the United States.
The Jacobson VS Massachusetts case of 1905 is considered the precedent, as it is one of the most important pieces of public health jurisprudence. This particular case upheld the power of individual states to pass compulsory laws requiring all residents of a state, mainly children, to be vaccinated. In this case, determined by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, a Massachusetts law was upheld that granted the boards of health from the Massachusetts municipalities to authorize the vaccination against smallpox of all the residents of the state. The Supreme Court judges were of the opinion that vaccination programs had a substantial relation to the protection of public health. In upholding this law, the supreme court noted that such a law was within the full discretion of the state of Massachusetts, and federal powers related to such laws could only be referred to in order to ensure that these state laws would not in any way contravene the US constitution or infringe any right secured by the constitution.
The early years of last century had seen the state of Massachusetts struggle with an increase in the number deaths resulting from smallpox. Many communities, therefore, required mandatory vaccinations of all residents to try and curb the spread of the menace. Jacobson, believing that the vaccination against smallpox was not sound for his health, refused to have the authorized vaccination, and was subsequently fined a total of $5. He took the matter to court, albeit unsuccessfully, deeming the law to have violated his fourteenth amendment right to liberty. He said that the law unfairly took away from him, the right to care for his own body in the way he knew best. The Supreme Court, however, was of a contrary opinion.
Nearly two decades after the above precedent, the issue of mandatory vaccination was brought to the floor of the United States Supreme Court, albeit this time it was from Texas, the case of Zucht VS King. An ordinance of San Antonio required that no child would be allowed to attend school without having been vaccinated. This led to Rosalyn Zucht being denied access to both public and private schools, which drew a suit to force her admission to school. The plaintiffs argued that the statute set in Jacobson VS Massachusetts was invalid. They failed to consider that the Supreme Court had determined that it is within the power of a state to authorize mandatory vaccination. As in the Jacobson VS Massachusetts case, there was no claim of violation of free exercise adduced.
Although not proven, it is widely believed that vaccines cause or lead to signs of autism in children. The vaccine court, a constituent court of the federal court that hears vaccine injury disputes, has in the last decade or so been at the center of the debate whether vaccines lead to autism in children. A land mark case on this debate was determined in August 2010, the case of Cedillo Vs Department of health and human services. Michelle Cedillo, by the time of the ruling, was a 15-year-old student had developed several medical complications, including autism, in the immediate aftermath of her vaccination. She was administered with Measles-Mumps-rubella vaccine among other vaccines that contained mercury. Her lawyers argued that the combination of live-virus vaccines and mercury containing vaccines led to her critical medical conditions. The federal circuit upheld the vaccine court’s decision that Cedillo did not provide a viable theory that vaccines had caused her autism.
After visiting her pediatrician on 6th January 1996, when she was sixteen months of age, Cedillo started developing a fever and rash. This was accompanied by coughing, vomiting and sagging. Her temperature would rise up to around 107 degrees, confirmed by her then pediatrician. These were followed, as recorded by the pediatrician, by developmental delays, adding that her development was indeed abnormal. She was later diagnosed with autism in July 1997. Apart from the autism and severe mental retardation, Cedillo also suffered from other critical medical conditions that included; fecal impaction, erosive esophagitis and gastoesophageal reflux disease. The case was filed on December 1998, and was determined twelve years later, in a judgment that many deemed unfair to the young Michelle Cedillo.
Jacobson v. Massachusetts, (1905). The United States Supreme Court, 197 U.S. 11
Zucht, by her Next Friend v. King, (1922). The United States Supreme Court, 260 U.S. 174
Cedillo v. secretary of health and human services, (2010). The United States Supreme Court,