News reports over the past few weeks made it appear like the government was gung ho in making vaccination mandatory for children in public schools but now it seems to be reversing its decision. Among the excuses being given is that the government does not want to infringe on parental rights as well as the right to education.
Making it mandatory for students in public and government-funded institutions to be properly vaccinated is not infringing on their rights. Parents can still have their right not to vaccinate their children and the children still have the right to an education but it cannot be at the government’s expense.
The right to an education is not impugned upon simply by not letting anti-vaccinated children to attend school because there are other options, be it private education or homeschooling. The parents have a choice.
Parents can decide not to vaccinate their kids but should not compromise the health of other people’s children. It is just like we ban smoking at eateries due to health concerns and make them walk 3m away to have their puff.
Two ministers — Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Education Minister Maszlee Malik — are thinking of individual rights rather than safeguarding the right of society. They show a difference in political thought when compared with Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad.
I was actually surprised that a minister trained as a medical doctor believes that non-vaccinated children should be allowed into schools, thereby compromising the health of others.
Are we putting the rights of an individual ahead of society? I believe we should put the rights of society first.
One can only push for so much education on vaccines before wanting to secure the safety of the people through exclusionary measures.
Yet again, I take the example of smoking. Everyone knows that smoking is bad for individual health and second-hand cigarette smoke is also known to impact the health of others.
To educate smokers, the government has made it compulsory to display gory pictures of diseased organs on every single box of cigarettes sold in Malaysia. But has this stopped smokers from lighting up? No.
The government has also decided to ban smoking at all restaurants. Shopping malls isolate smokers to smoking zones or, in the case of the Ikano Power Centre in Damansara Perdana, a smoking garden.
So, in comparison, why is it so difficult to implement a similar policy for non-vaccinated children?
If parents are saying the child is innocent, it is true — but the parents are not. The sins of the father will be borne by the son.
Forgive me for being crass but I view letting non-vaccinated children into public schools as a threat equivalent to that of parents arming their kid like a suicide bomber and then taking no responsibility when the school blows up.
The science is clear on this matter. There is no longer time to educate the general public before taking action to exclude these “medical time bombs” from infecting other children, especially when social media is littered with anti-vaccination campaigners protected under the “freedom of speech” policy.
As such, both Wan Azizah and Maszlee should stop dithering about an individual’s rights or parental rights.
Hafidz Baharom is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.