Annika Saarikko (Centre), the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, has voiced her reservations about a proposal to make child benefits conditional on the child being vaccinated.
The proposal was made on Sunday by Sanni Grahn-Laasonen (NCP), the Minister of Education. Grahn-Laasonen proposed that a study be launched to explore the possibility of making child and other family benefits conditional on vaccination in an attempt to raise national vaccination rates.
Saarikko on Monday viewed that the carrot is likely to be more effective than the stick for bolstering the vaccination coverage.
“Rather than slashing child benefits, I believe the smarter way would be to offer a month of additional benefits to families who have made sure their child has received all basic vaccinations before school age,” she wrote in a column published on the website of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
“Although I would principally like to echo the demands made last weekend by the minister of education and others, I have to point out that the matter is not quite that simple,” added Saarikko.
The debate about vaccinations was kindled last week after it was confirmed that an unvaccinated child has been diagnosed with measles in Luoto, Western Finland. As many as 300 people, including other unvaccinated children, are believed to have been exposed to the highly contagious virus.
The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has reported that vaccination rates in the region are as low as 75 per cent – some 20 percentage points lower than the levels required for herd immunity.
Saarikko reminded that making child and other family benefits conditional on vaccination would also warrant consideration from the perspective of basic rights and the constitution.
She also pointed out that even though vaccinations are voluntary elsewhere in the Nordics, vaccination rates there are much higher than in Eastern European countries where parents may be fined for neglecting to vaccinate their children. Mandatory vaccinations, she added, could also lead to a strong counter-reaction.
“In Australia, slashing social benefits has led to an increase in both the number of people taking all vaccinations and the number of people refusing all vaccinations,” she highlighted.
Measles vaccinations were mandatory in Finland until 1951. The current legislation, however, only allows for mandatory vaccinations in extraordinary circumstances, such as when a dangerous disease is spreading as a result of a terror attack, according to Saarikko.
She told that while ideological opposition to vaccinations is harmful, it is also uncommon: only one per cent of all young children have not been vaccinated against any diseases.
“Vaccination opposition is also associated with deliberate or commercial activities based on erroneous information, including lectures and the sales of books telling about the mostly imaginary or greatly exaggerated risks of vaccinations and alternative herbal products (e.g. colloidal silver),” she stated.
“I think activities such as that are particularly condemnable. In Finland, the intention is to finally bring alternative therapies under control. I launched the preparatory work this autumn at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health,” said Saarikko.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi