Should parents have the right to opt out of vaccines for their kids?

I've never really understood the whole hoopla around vaccinations. I was vaccinated as a child and so was everybody else I know, so I didn't really think much of it when it came time to get my own children vaccinated. I mean, I'd heard all kinds of negative things against vaccines, but, honestly, I didn't pay too much attention.

Then again, I guess I'm very lucky that I've never known anybody who had any kind of reaction--other than the usual--to a vaccine. I might think differently about vaccinations if I knew someone who had a seizure or some other form of side effect after getting them. Or, if there was REAL proof that they are responsible for the myriads of things they've been associated with. The truth, though, is that vaccines have saved far more children from all types of terrible illnesses than the ones they've harmed. But still, the question remains: Should parents be given the opportunity to opt out of vaccinations?

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Vermont is currently debating whether parents who object to vaccines for personal or moral reasons can opt out of the requirement for all school-aged children to get them. Known as the "philosophical exemption," Vermont is one of 20 states that currently offer this option.

At issue is the fact that this exemption has obviously lowered the percentage of children getting vaccinated in Vermont, which health officials believe is responsible for the outbreak of pertussis (or whooping cough) they had last year.

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Although I'm all for people having the right to choose what's best for their own children without the need of government interference, the reality is that the overall public health benefit of vaccinations trumps this right. 

What do you think? Did your children get vaccinated? 

Image via UNICEF/Sverige/flickr