Vaccines are medications which have potential risks as well as potential benefits. There is debate in the scientific community about the efficacy and safety of many vaccines.
The decision whether or not to take any medication is one that must be made by the individual concerned. It is a fundamental human right to be able to choose one’s own medical treatment without coercion. Adults make decisions about their own medical treatment. In the case of children, responsibility for decisions about their medical care rests with their parents or guardians.
Children and young people have a right to education. Any policy that restricts access to education (at early childhood, primary, secondary, or tertiary level) on the basis of a child or student’s vaccination status is discriminatory and unethical.
Children and young people in the formal education system have the right to the best teachers available. NZ is currently facing staff shortages in many areas of the education sector. Any policy that seeks to coerce teachers (or other staff employed in the education sector) to be vaccinated is unethical and will likely lead to an exodus of intelligent and hardworking staff from the education sector.
People who are sick or injured require skilled care from intelligent and caring health professionals. There are currently staff shortages in many areas in the public health system. The introduction of any new policy which could worsen this situation (such as policies mandating vaccination for health professionals and health care students seeking practicum placements) must be opposed because it is unethical and infringes the rights of health professionals to choose their own medical treatment without coercion. Such a policy would also likely be bad for public health since it could result in health professionals leaving their professions (and intelligent young people choosing alternative career paths) and worsen staff shortages, thus adversely impacting patient care.
In the case of areas of science in which there is significant controversy, such as genetic engineering, nuclear power and vaccination, children and young people have the right to hear both sides of the issue. The NZ curriculum documents should reflect this.