An Israeli court this week ordered the immediate vaccination of a child against tetanus, despite his parents’ objection. The decision could set a precedent as the anti-vaccination movement gains ground around the world and in Israel.
The year-and-a-half-old child was badly burned in the leg two weeks ago, and was taken by his parents to a local clinic for preliminary treatment, according to a Channel 12 report on the decision.
A nurse urged the parents to see a pediatrician, who recommended a tetanus shot to ensure the child’s wound didn’t result in an infection by the potentially deadly pathogen.
The parents, who are opposed to vaccinations, refused to do so. The pediatrician then decided to report the incident to the local health office, which turned to the attorney general’s office and the Welfare Ministry, which filed a suit with the Hadera Family Court asking for an urgent order to force the parents to vaccinate the toddler.
“The vaccine is necessary,” state attorneys wrote to the court, “because of the concern that the burn wound could be infected with the tetanus pathogen.”
The appeal noted that tetanus is a “serious disease, expressed as painful muscle spasms and pain that can cause death.” It added that a patient infected with the bacteria has a 100 percent chance of death, which drops to a still substantial 18% if the patient receives immediate hospital care.
In the ruling, the court said it “is not ignoring the parents’ views, and their right to make decisions related to their minor son, including fundamental decisions.”
It also said the parents in the case “are good and concerned parents who care for their son, and their actions, as they understand them, are intended for the good and well-being of the child.”
Yet, the judge wrote, “the welfare of the child is the primary consideration, and I have been convinced, in this specific case, in light of the child’s wound, that the benefits of the vaccine are significantly greater than the risks, and the court cannot accept the parents’ view.”
The court ordered the parents to vaccinate the child, and granted the state permission to turn to welfare services and the police to enforce the decision.
According to Channel 12, the parents obeyed the court ruling and vaccinated the child earlier this week.
The parents belong to the so-called anti-vaxxer movement, which bases its opposition to lifesaving vaccines on a series of debunked claims, including a 1988 British report linking the MMR vaccine — against measles, mumps and rubella — to autism. Repeated studies, the most recent involving more than 650,000 children monitored for more than a decade, have shown that there is no such link.
The movement has surged in recent years with the rise of online conspiracy theories on social media. An estimated 169 million children missed out on the vital first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, according to a UNICEF report, helping fuel a global outbreak of measles. The number of cases of the disease had risen 300 percent worldwide in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period last year, the UN said.
AFP contributed to this report.