Court Orders Kids Be Vaccinated Without Parents' Permission


If you're against vaccinations, well, then this story probably isn't for you. But if you're a pro-vaxxer, here's an interesting question to ponder: Is it ever OK for a court to force parents to vaccinate their children?


Because that's exactly what happened in Philadelphia, one of the hardest hit cities during another one of America's measles epidemics (no, not this one).

The specifics of this particular case are unique, so before you decide whether this was justified or not, here are the details: the 1991 outbreak apparently centered around a church called the Faith Tabernacle Congregation, which ran a school with approximately a thousand children -- and which also preached against immunizations (and medical care in general). Consequently, none of the kids in the church community had ever received any shots.

So when measles came to town, guess who got sick?

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Philly's deputy health commissioner at the time, Dr. Robert Ross, tried everything he could think of to convince the Faith Tabernacle families that their kids needed to be vaccinated, even starting a door-to-door pro-medical intervention campaign. Some parents relented, but others did not -- the family of one girl who already had a pretty severe case of the measles didn't even want her to go to the hospital. Meanwhile, children in the area were dying from this preventable disease. Not knowing what else to do, Ross and his colleagues obtained a court order forcing families to vaccinate their kids -- no doubt saving many lives in the process. Still, parents were highly "traumatized" by the experience, according to Ross. But does that even matter?

Look, I'm the first person to get creeped out by anything that seems Big Brother-y -- in general, I don't think parents (or anyone) should be forced to do anything by the government. For some reason, though, this feels different to me.

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I think Ross did the right thing, simply because what he did kept kids from dying -- I mean, it doesn't get much more black and white than that, does it? And as the mother of three (one of whom is still too young to be vaccinated against the measles), if an outbreak like that hit my area, I'd want the powers-that-be to do whatever it took to keep my kids safe and healthy. Ideally, of course, common sense would prevail and the government wouldn't have to step in -- but from the way things have been going lately, I'm not so sure that's how things would go down.

Do you think it's ever okay for courts to force parents to vaccinate their kids?


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