Is it okay to name and shame people who haven’t vaccinated their kids? Well, a group of mums in the US state of Wisconsin apparently think so.
A note addressed to neighbours of an anti-vaxxer, warning them that this woman “does not believe in vaccinating herself or her family” has gone viral.
The note, signed by “Concerned Moms of Wisconsin” and posted to Imgur by someone calling themselves NeedingVsGetting, says this woman’s decision is putting medically fragile people at risk.
“Please use caution when sharing work or personal space with this individual, eating foods prepared by this individual, or attending gatherings at this individual’s house if you or the people who are important to you fall into medically at-risk categories,” it reads. “The unvaccinated pose a unique threat to infants, who often don’t yet have a full course of vaccinations completed, and can quickly become deathly ill or die.”
The note goes on to list all the states in which unvaccinated people have caused outbreaks of disease. It includes a link to a website that shows recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases around the world, including mumps, measles and whooping cough in the US.
It’s measles that’s causing the most concern in the US right now. Before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, around 500 Americans died from the disease each year. Measles was declared eliminated from the US in 2000. But this year, already, 387 measles cases have been confirmed across the country. One New York county has banned unvaccinated children from being in public places.
You can understand the frustration of health authorities. A disease that has officially been eliminated is starting to spread again, because some people have chosen not to vaccinate their kids.
Naming and shaming, like the “concerned mums” did in this note, is a pretty serious thing. It’s the kind of thing you might do if you discovered a sex offender living on your street. Do anti-vaxxers deserve to be treated like this?
Well, if I had a tiny baby who hadn’t yet been vaccinated, or a seriously ill child who was immunocompromised, yes, I would appreciate this kind of note. I would want to know if I had a neighbour who was an anti-vaxxer.
I would not stop and have a chat with them while walking with my baby down the street. I would not let my children play with their children. Kids’ lives matter more than privacy issues or social niceties.
Vaccination is not just a personal choice. Your decision not to vaccinate – whether based on a social media post by a footballer’s wife or a fraudulent study by a doctor struck off the medical register for unethical behaviour – affects other people’s kids. It could kill them.
The danger is real. The World Health Organization has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019.
Did the “Concerned Moms of Wisconsin” do the right thing? That’s open for discussion. But expect this kind of thing to become more common, as the battlelines are drawn.
Where do you stand on the public shaming of anti-vaxxers? Tell us in the comments.