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Parents Get Prison Sentence for Failing to Vaccinate Children


Two sets of parents in Belgium have been sentenced to five months in prison and fined 4,100 euros ($8,000) for failing to have their children vaccinated against polio. If the parents meet the deadline to vaccinate, they can dodge incarceration. Because of Belgium privacy laws, the details as to why the parents refused vaccination are unknown.

Polio is the only vaccination required by law in Belgium, and France is the only other European county that also requires it. In the US, children can avoid vaccination easily for religious of philosophical reasons. In Saudi Arabia, pilgrims from countries with a polio epidemic must prove vaccination, as well as receive an extra dose from the Saudi authorities at the airport. To see if vaccination is worth it, read more.

While Polio has dropped 99 percent since eradication efforts began, the disease can spread rapidly, leaving all countries at risk of an outbreak. Bioethics experts classify those that refuse to be vaccinated as "free riders" who can only refuse vaccination because others have fulfilled their responsibility.

Do you think the prison-sentenced parents in Belgium have any rights in the case? Or, are they simply failing to fulfill an obligation to their children and society? Will the threat of prison convince parents that they must vaccinate their children, even if they hold a strong conviction against it?
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