A legal victory against mandatory vaccination of children may spell trouble for generations to come. Professor Mehmet Ceyhan, who heads the National Vaccination Commission, says vaccine exemptions rose 13 times in the past three years, and more than 12,000 people were exempted from vaccination in 2016 - the latest year with available data - upon their request. "It is still growing, and if we don't stop it, once deadly diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, smallpox, measles will make a comeback," he said.
Vaccination has long been a controversial issue in Turkey, as several parents over the past few years have filed lawsuits against the Health Ministry, which oversees the vaccination of children. In 2015, in a landmark verdict, the Constitutional Court ruled that mandatory vaccination carried out by the Health Ministry against the consent of parents contradicted the constitutional rights of parents. The top court's ruling said that parents cannot be forced to have their children vaccinated, even if they are ordered by the courts, and an amendment is needed in the law concerning mandatory vaccination.
Parents cite "scientific" studies indicating the side effects of vaccines to back their legal claims, though a majority of the medical community point out that "studies" concerning the damage caused by vaccinations have been debunked.
"Vaccination should be made on a voluntary basis, not through forcing people to have it. We will launch a campaign in May to inform people on vaccination," Ceyhan says. "Vaccination objectors are more popular nowadays, but this is an issue that harms the overall public. We see the emergence of diseases whose prevalence was completely eliminated in the past, such as measles, because people reject taking a second dose to completely prevent infection. People are hospitalized for whooping cough in this age because they reject vaccination," he says. "Certainly, vaccinations do not provide 100 percent protection, but if more people tend to skip vaccines, there is the likelihood of having more people infected among those vaccinated.
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