As schoolchildren and parents begin the new year, public attention is once again focused on the question of support for denying entrance to children whose parents refuse to innoculate against highly dangerous and contagious diseases.
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, one of Israel’s most prominent ethicists, is the Director of Jewish Ethics of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization.
He says that sanctioning such children via their parents is justified according to Torah law. But he cautions that it should only be used as a last resort.
The “anti-vaxxers” movement – those who chose not to vaccinate their children – has intensified in recent years.
The move comes after a study, widely disregarded by almost all mainstream medical professionals, that claimed some vaccines may lead to an increased incidence of autism in children.
The result is that a growing number of children are no longer vaccinated and are carriers of these diseases, most prominently measles.
“There is no doubt that measles is a highly contagious, dangerous condition that when left untreated can lead to severe public health crises,” Rabbi Cherlow says.
“As such, and recognizing that modern technology has given us an easily accessible means to prevent its spread, parents of children who choose not to accept this option can be sanctioned. Such punitive measures are in line with both ethical and halachic principles.
“However,” Rabbi Cherlow cautions, “the reality is that such sanctions will likely have limited impact upon parents who are so swayed by incorrect information.”
The rabbi advises that efforts must first be focused on countering that misinformation, and to instead create public awareness of how such parents are acting in a manner that is “anti-social, irresponsible and potentially deeply harmful to the good of the public.”
While unvaccinated children pose limited danger to themselves, they remain carriers of the disease which can be extremely dangerous for other children with compromised immune systems.
Several recent cases in Israel have highlighted the dangers surrounding unvaccinated children, including one child who exposed others who were being treated in a pediatric oncology ward.