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What should be the government’s role in vaccinations?

If you spent Thanksgiving dinner trying to avoid your coughing, sniffling, contagious younger cousins, you’re probably thinking about staying one step ahead of sickness this week. But would you take it as far as getting a flu shot?

The government recommends that virtually the entire population get vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease. But vaccinations are a personal choice: You notice that the government is only recommending them. It doesn’t mandate shots on a national level, though some state governments have tried to step up their role by requiring vaccinations for health care workers. And in California, where a whooping cough outbreak caused the death of 10 infants this fall, a law goes into effect in January requiring students to be vaccinated for the disease.

With 310 million people living within its borders, the U.S. government has an interest in making sure they don’t all get sick at once. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the government agency that studies disease outbreaks, monitors how they spread over time and makes recommendations on how the public can stay healthy. It is a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, a wing of the executive branch dealing specifically with recommending laws and policy regarding the country’s health.
But how about the big one – the flu? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 5 and 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year. More than 200,000 people go to the hospital because of it, and 36,000 people die (usually babies or the elderly). The CDC says this could be prevented by simple annual shots, and in the past, it has recommended that everybody between 6 months and 18 years of age, as well as everybody over 50, get vaccinated.
This year, the CDC expanded this range to include that gap between 18 and 50 – it now recommends that pretty much the entire population get a flu shot. But not everybody does; last year, only 35 percent of the public was vaccinated. In a recent Consumer Reports survey, 37 percent of respondents said they planned on getting vaccinated this year – slightly more, but still low.

Why do so few people get their shots? The reasons are many. Some say there’s no evidence the vaccine works. Some worry about the vaccine’s ingredients – and toxic side effects they are afraid will come with them. Since vaccinations involve being injected with a strain of the disease to build up immunity, many people (24 percent, according to a Harvard study) worry that flu shots actually cause the flu, even though they don’t. Others feel that the shots can lead to autism in the young, or Alzheimer’s in the elderly. Religious groups that don’t believe in medication avoid getting shots. People who don’t like needles avoid getting vaccinated (even though the flu vaccine is also available as a nasal spray).

Because of these many reasons – some legitimate, some perhaps not – the federal government does not make any vaccinations required, only recommended. However, some state laws do take enforcement a bit further.

In California, for instance, a whooping cough outbreak led to a law introduced by state Assemblyman Juan Arambula requiring all students entering seventh grade to get a booster shot to prevent the spread of the disease. (The state already requires kindergartners to be vaccinated before entering school; most get a series of three shots before their first birthday.)

The vaccination debate also includes health care workers. If you had the flu, would you want to a doctor taking care of you who wasn’t protected from the disease? The CDC says that only 40 percent of health care workers get vaccinated for seasonal influenza. Some states feel they should – New York State Sen. Tom Duane this September introduced a state law requiring it. In other states, enforcement is left up to those in the profession – 94 of the 98 hospitals in Washington state adopted a policy requiring employees to get a flu shot or “take another protective action” – which can range from watching an educational video, to wearing a face mask, to risk losing their job.

What do you think?
Would you get a flu shot? Should you? How involved should the government be in deciding who is vaccinated and why? Should they do what some states have done and require shots? Or should they stick to recommendations, and leave the choice to get shots a personal one? What reasons can you think of for getting a flu shot? What reasons can you think of for not getting one? Join the discussion!
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Logos Private Christian School
On my research for our debate I found out that the government is already taking control over our vaccinations, California is already forced to take vaccinations. I feel it is our rights with our constitution that we should be able to choose if we want vaccines or not. I do believe though that we should have vaccinations because there are still diseases that are out there that require vaccines, but the government should stay out of it.

Tampa Bay Tech
I feel that some vaccinations, such as the whooping cough or measles should be required, not so much the flu though. I think this because when you choose not to get vaccinated for fatal diseases that have not been seen in a long time, you are not only putting yourself at risk, but you are putting the portion of the population that can't get vaccinated at risk as well, and to me that's not right because they didn't choose to catch what you passed onto them because you were too incompetent to realize the risk you were imposing on them.

Mrs Adewo\Emmy Norberton International School
The importance of Immunization in Nigeria

Midwest City/OK
Mussatto/Rose State
It should be my right to decide, even in healthcare field. All medical workers put their lives in danger with viruses, blood, and bodily fluids and the diseases the patients have. The government is recommending it and hospitals are enforcing you take it or be fired - NOT RIGHT!!

Sharon J.
I think that the government should pick its battles, and frankly I don't feel that forcing all Americans to receive flu shots is one of the most pressing issues at hand. I do believe that it is important for everyone, especially those at high risk, to receive flu shots because there are those rare cases in which you may in fact die, but even for the common person, you become indisposed for a period of time. Your overall health is influenced personal decisions, and if you choose to not receive a flu shot, you are choosing to put yourself at risk. In the end, we are a free country, and we shouldn't be forced to do anything you don't feel is necessary and at the same time be prepared for the consequences for our choices.


Lucy V.
Bradley/Nimitz High School, Irving/TX
I think that the involvement of the government in vaccination is fine where it is. That is to say, the government can't increase or decrease their position in this matter lest they risk the public's outrage. If the government increase its involvement and make a law forcing everyone to take a vaccine, even if the purpose is pure, it will seem like the government is infringing upon the people's liberty to choose. However, if the government lessen their involvement, it'll seem like the government is not caring about its people. I like how the government is just recommending people take the vaccines. It's not too forward nor is it too backward. Let the people who refuse to take the shots pay for their folly.


Monica A.
Bradley/Nimitz High School, Irving,Tx
I will admit that I still have not gotten my vaccination. It is not because am opposed, I simply lack the initiative. Vaccinations are very important, and people that work with the ill, should be required to get their vaccines. By not requiring nurses to be vaccinated, doors to serious illnesses are being left open. The government should maintain their recommendations, but stay away from enforcing vaccines on people. Americans do have the right to choose, but the that right should be waived when they are possibly endangering lives.


Bethany H.
Bradley/Nimitz, Irving, TX
It's a prepostorous idea to even require someone to get a vaccination. I honestly do think it should stay under the reccomendation because people like myself don't get sick that often, therefore the only shots I get are the required ones that are for the diseases that have killed a whole chunk of the nation in the past. Myself and countless others dread going to get those vaccinations just because of the evil doings of needles stabbing you in the skin. If the government required them and PAID for them also, that's a different story. I wouldn't mind at all getting a free vaccination sponsored by the government, but the fact that they're talking about requiring us to get a shot that some of us don't even need because some our immune systems are professionals and are fighters when it comes to diseases!


Bradley/Nimitz, Irving/TX
If it were a case of life or death I would get the flu shot. In reality I would not die from the flu although I might suffer from the sickness it will not get as severe as death. In my opinion the flu shot is not a necessity and if I choose not to take it I should not be punished. I think the government should require anyone who might suffer the consequence of death to take the flu shot. Mainly the people that should be required to take the flu shot should be infants and elderly people. They are at greatest risk of death and the government should provide them with flu shots.


Bradley/Nimitz, Irving, TX
I belive that the national government should not be involed with vaccination making it an obligation for people to get vaccinated. I understand that the government is making the citizens' welfare one of their top priorities, but some shots have different effects on people in some cases those effects may be negative because of the way that a person's immunce system reacts to a certain medicine. I think it should be up to the individual to decide whether a shot is a good option to avoid sickness,and vaccination should just continue to be recommended. The only time when i think the governement should step up is when a certain virus or diesease gets out of control turning it to an epidemic that threatens not only the lives of few individuals, but of many around the country.


Justin S.
Nimitz High School, Irving, Texas
The government should not require any one to get flu shots. A flu vaccine is filled with weak cells of the flu strain that have a small chance of getting you sick. If you don't want to take that risk, you shouldn't be forced to. Some vaccines can cost money to get, so if the government is going to force us to get them, we should not have to pay for them.


Uyen V.
Bradley, Nimitz HS, Irving, TX
I have already gotten my flu shots. But I see what the government is trying to do. They are trying to prevent their whole nation from drying. I think that the government's decision, to have a requirement of getting the flu shot, could make a big difference in our nation. It could prevent many deaths, save several lives, and keep the disease away. I think that the government shouldn't stick with “recommendations” for people to receive the flu shot, but should “require” people to do so. If you didn't get the flu shot, you could possibly get the flu itself. After many years of not catching one bit of the flu disease, the seriousness of getting the flu, I finally decided to take the government's “recommendation” and of course, I still haven't caught it. But it doesn't hurt to be safe than sorry!


Joey E.
Sidney High School, Sidney, MT
I Think that Kids should be required to get vaccinations because i think it would make a difference in how many kids get really sick from a disease.


SHS, sidney/MT
i believe the government should have to pay for it's citizens' vaccinations. it is the government's duty to keep the general welfare of its citizens at top priority. a government should help all of its citizens, because the citizens are the ones who pay taxes.


Mary S.
Ms. Bradley/Nimitz High School, Irving, TX
For the most part, I do believe that vaccinations aid in preventing diseases, but they don't usually work on me. I have had the flu more times than I can count; I can even include myself in the swine flu epidemic of last year. I have given up on flu shots all together. I believe that the government should not be involved in deciding who should get vaccinations, but they should to continue to recommend them to whomever they believe is the most susceptible to the illness. There are many reasons to get flu shots: you could have the flu and pass it on to someone, you could become incredibly ill and find yourself in the hospital from it, and you will definitely miss school or work. Despite all the pluses to getting the flu shot this year, the choice should always be up to the individual, not the government.


Mrs. Berty, WAshington pa
This is a very good idea to take the flu shot because it has been proven to save thousands of people a year.


Sidney High School, Sidney,MT
The gov't could possibly bring people from clinics and make so you have to have the vaccinations..


Mr.Smith/Monache, Porterville /ca
I personally don't feel that the Goverment should step in and tell me to get a Vaccination unless they are going to come up with the money to buy it for me.


Bradley/Nimitz High School, Irving, TX
I don't really have the problem with the government mandating flu shots, but I don't see it really worth the governments time. In theory the shots should work, in theory we wouldn't have to deal with the flu anymore. We cured small pox and so far no new major epidemics have broken out because of them. Why can't we do the same for flu shots? In theory this plan would work, but I see many problems . First, vaccinations don't necessarily work and in my own experience, actually cause me to get the flu, not protect me from it. When I don't get a shot, I don't get sick. I want proof of the effectiveness of a shot before the government can tell me that I have to get one. Otherwise, this leads to my second point, mandating unproven flu shots, especially when they are not needed may result in what is happening currently in India with antibiotics, the development of super bugs. Overuse has caused the rise of dangerous super bugs and we don't want the flu to become even more powerful My final qualm about the government mandating flu shots come with the cost. The cost, especially in hard economic times, even if it is only twenty dollars can be a lot especially when translated into a family situation where a family of five may spend at least $ 100 on flu shots, $100 that is not spent instead on food. Flu shots may be worth it for some people but until the time that flue shots are really proven to be successful, I will never get one. Even if the government was to mandate getting a flu shot, new economic and supply problems will rear its ugly head. Drug companies can barely fulfill the nations flu shots needs now. To make up for the lack of supplies, foreign companies may have to be contracted and that can lead to many more health problems, especially if these companies don't have to follow the same health levels in the U.S.

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