With very few exceptions, the locus of medical decision making in the United States is in the individual or, in the case of a child, in the parents. Individuals and parents decide whether or not they want X rays or blood tests or whether to take medicine for their infection or their asthma. They even get to decide if they want to allow a doctor to examine them in the first place! The theory behind this concept of autonoour is that individuals and parents have absolute control over the integrity of their bodies and their children’s bodies, and nothing may be done without appropriate permission.
However, as we discuss, vaccines fall within the category of public health. While no one can force parents to vaccinate their children, all states have laws requiring certain vaccinations in order to attend day care or public schools. In addition, there is also a law that children must receive an education. In some cases, parents clearly feel forced to vaccinate their children because they are unable to homeschool them.
This leads to an interesting dilemma between individual autonoour and the interests of public health.
Although there are exemptions to these vaccination laws, in the majority of states the requirements for exemptions are hard to meet. In the end, though, parents (almost) always have the final say on whether or not their child receives a vaccination.