Sunday, March 16, 2008

Belgians Jailed for Refusing Polio Vaccination

Polio remains a widespread problem throughout the world, despite the existence of a successful polio vaccination. What are doctors and heads of state to do when people reject the vaccination? In Belgium, refusal could now result in incarceration.

Recently, the Associated Press reported that two sets of parents in Belgium were sentenced to five months in prison and fined $8,000 because they refused to have their children vaccinated for polio. A delay was put on the sentencing to give the parents a second chance to comply with the vaccination. However, they will definitely go to prison if they still refuse. This raises many questions about freedom of choice.

On one hand, polio is a terrible disease that can be easily eradicated with widespread vaccination. However, forcing citizens to become vaccinated is deemed as extreme as some. Those who refuse vaccinations for religious reasons will probably be the most troubled by mandatory vaccinations.
Miguel A. Faria, Jr. of the Medical Sentinel has addressed the ethics of forced vaccinations, stating "…the historic record also reveals that when physicians become agents of the state rather than advocates of their patients, everyone suffers. Physicians become preoccupied with preventive health measures and the 'rational allocation of scarce resources,' rather than the health of their individual patients."

The head of Belgium's vaccine center, Dr. Victor Lusayu, doesn't see it that way, however. Lusayu maintains that "The discovery of the vaccine has eliminated polio from Europe and it is simply the law in Belgium that you have to be vaccinated. ... At the end of the day, the law must be respected."

Polio vaccinations are the only vaccinations in Belgium that are required by law. France has also made the vaccination mandatory, as Europe is desperately trying to stem polio outbreaks. It is a highly contagious disease that is spread through water and children are especially susceptible, making any outbreaks all the more tragic. Whether or not these vaccination laws will improve Europe's polio problem remains to be seen.

This is a guest post by Susan Jacobs. Susan is a part-time teacher, as well as a regular contributor for NOEDb, a site for learning about and selecting an online nursing degree program. Susan invites your comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address

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Blogger Unknown said...

While the story poses strong questions about one's freedom of choice, the children who contract the disease had no choice. The way the disease spreads offers no choice. Since 1985 Rotary has worked to eliminate Polio and now we're in the home stretch. Through a matching grant with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Rotary is going to raise 200 million over the next three years toward the fight against polio. Right now you are only 60cents away from preventing one case of Polio. To contribute please log on to and donate. Once your on the site please click on the donate button.

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Donate to Polio Plus

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