Time for some unsolicited advice to politicians who have been caught up, or are about to be, in the current childhood vaccination debate.
- While it is perfectly fine to state what you have done with your own children, keep the debate centered around public policy.
- Define the public policy objective, which should be to maximize the number of children who are receiving timely vaccinations.
- Determine what has changed over the years to forestall, and in some constituencies roll-back, a program that has worked well for decades and was on the brink of eradicating some childhood diseases.
- Understand that some parents have a genuine fear of vaccination due to past personal experiences.
- Recognize that you need parents to willfully comply with what is essentially a voluntary program.
Loudmouth leaders and arrogant television talking-heads are not going to get anywhere by screaming to the masses, "vaccines are safe and effective!!!!!" That won't reach your target audience. Much has changed since baby-boom politicians were children. There are more mandated and recommended vaccines, required at an earlier age, and given in new combinations.
It was only a few years ago that New Jersey began requiring flu vaccine for children attending preschool. Like it or not, this was a new mandate that may have actually driven some parents away from all vaccines! How can a mandate like this drive your public policy objective?
Chris Christie and Rand Paul gave the most thoughtful responses to the vaccine question when they acknowledged that parents have some right in determining what is best for their children. Unless government is planning to go door-to-door puncturing tykes against their parents' will, leaders need to connect with concerned parents and get them back on board by enacting new public vaccination policies that make sense.