Vaccines have been responsible for eradicating or at least containing some of the world’s most serious diseases, such as polio and meningitis. Although most parents think about immunizing their children without a second thought, not all countries require parents to do so. In fact, there are many states that lack any legislation at all pertaining to vaccines.
With the rise of anti-vaccination culture in recent years, the question of whether or not a country should require people to stay up-to-date with their shots has become a relevant question. Some parents feel that it is their decision to vaccinate their kids based on their personal beliefs and any research they may have done. More and more parents (including celebrities) are speaking up about their right to choose for their children. Still, there are other parents who feel it should be federally required. A single, unvaccinated child can put countless other children at risk. This is why many countries a rei introducing legislation that requires kids be immunized in order to register for school, thus basically forcing parents to immunize their children.
Keep reading to discover ten countries in the world that don’t require children to be vaccinated and that, unfortunately, have alarmingly low rates of immunized children.
Interestingly, Japan is one of the only countries to introduce a No Vaccine Mandate. According to Children’s Health Defense, the state created two categories of non-compulsory vaccines. The first are “routine” shots the government highly recommends but does not require. The second type are ‘voluntary vaccines’ that are paid for by the parents (and thus rarely sought). Japan also banned the MMR vaccines in the late 1980s after it found evidence that it may be harmful to youth. The site adds that it not recommends a measles-rubella (MR) vaccines, but frowns upon the traditional MMR immunization.
With a poor healthcare system, Pakistan has trouble enforcing the few vaccines the government does recommend, leading to some of the highest rates of polio in the world. But even more concerning is the fact that the anti-vaccination movement is growing rapidly in the country.
Earlier this year, in April, attacks were carried out by anti-vaxx supporters, CNN confirms. “Pakistan is one of only three countries to have failed in its bid to stop the transmission of polio, according to the World Health Organization,” the site explains. “That is in part due to a historical distrust of foreign healthcare providers.”
At the moment, Australia lacks a federal piece of legislation that requires all children to be vaccination. However, with the increase of anti-vaxxer culture, the nation has begun taking a stand on the issue. Just last year, the state introduced a law that would now penalize parents for sending unvaccinated children to school. “The reduction in payments is meant to be a ‘constant reminder for parents to keep their children’s [immunization] up to date,’ a news release from the government explained,” Global News explains. The Australian government’s recent efforts have increased the number of kids getting their shots, the publication confirms.
Madagascar is currently facing a measles epidemic caused by the fact that only half the population is vaccinated against the disease as children. According to The World Bank, only 58% of children between the ages of 12 to 23 months are immunized against measles in Madagascar. This is in stark contrast to other African nations, which boasts rates of at least 80%. CBC explains, “As Madagascar faces its largest measles outbreak in history and cases soar well beyond 115,000, there is poor vaccine coverage caused, not by resistance to vaccinating children, but by lack of access to health resources.”
Britain is one of the worst European countries when it comes to vaccinations. The state has no federal mandate requiring immunization, and with the growing anti-vaxx culture, many parents are opting to skip it.
Despite an increase in pro-vaccination campaigns, evidence suggests these numbers will continue increasing. In 2018, the BBC wrote, “NHS data shows the proportion of two year olds immunised against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) fell for the fourth year in a row in 2017-18.” They added, “Parent, Juliette Bryant, told the BBC she did not want her children to be "guinea pigs" and chose not to vaccinate them.”
Although many European nations make vaccinations compulsory, the Ukraine does not have a federal law mandating it. This contributed to why the country faced the largest outbreak of Measles in 2018. According to Radio Liberty, the poor rates of vaccinations have coincided with a growing distrust towards immunization in Ukraine. The publication explains, “UNICEF said statistics by the World Health Organization showed there were 35,120 cases of measles in Ukraine last year -- a massive rise from about 5,000 in 2017.” Radio Liberty not only blame anti-vaxx tensions, but also a shortage of vaccine supplies for the measles outbreak.
For many years, Italy was one state that didn’t federally require parents to vaccinate their children. However, with a surge in a measles outbreak in recent years, the country actually introduced a piece of legislation that prevents kids who aren’t immunized from attending school. Last year, the BBC explains, “The deadline follows months of national debate over compulsory vaccination. Parents risk being fined up to €500 (£425; $560) if they send their unvaccinated children to school. Children under six can be turned away.” Perhaps a federal mandate is the next step in increasing Italian immunization rates.
Unfortunately, despite the increasing prevalence of pro-vaccine campaigns in recent years, Nigeria still has some of the lowest rates of immunization. According to Baby Gaga, less than 1% of the population is vaccinated, leading to high rates of infant fatality. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also confirm there is currently on ongoing outbreak of yellow fever in Nigeria, which first became problematic in September of 2017. There have also been a staggering number of cases of polio reported in the states, which can be fatal for those not properly vaccinated against the disease.
For many years, France lacked clear legislation that required immunization in children, making it the country’s stance unclear. However, it was just last year that the nation made 11 vaccines compulsory in order for children to attend school, following the trend of many European nations. Though there is still no federal law requiring vaccinations, unless parents want to homeschool their kids, they’ll have no choice. “The French government's announcement seeks to stamp-out growing nationwide skepticism towards vaccines and one of the world's highest vaccine rejection rates,” Agencia EFE explains of the government’s decision.
1 The United States
This may surprise readers, but the U.S. has some of the most problematic rates of immunization in the world. This might be due to the fact, with no federal law requiring vaccines, that many states allow parents to opt out of recommended vaccines if they so choose. According to Romper, “18 U.S. states ‘grant parents the right to opt-out of vaccination because of personal, moral or other belief.’ Thus, vaccination is technically not mandatory in the United States.” With the rates of anti-vaxxers on the rise, American parents should expect to see more parents preventing their kids from getting immunized if their state allows.
Sources: Romper, The World Bank, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CBC, Radio Liberty, Baby Gaga, Children’s Health Defense, CNN, Global News, The BBC, Agencia EFE.