COMMENT:

A couple of days ago, we woke up to news of another 37 cases of measles in Auckland alone.

The disease is spreading rapidly across the country's biggest city - and everywhere else in the country too. In Auckland alone, there have been 546 cases diagnosed this year.

Middlemore Hospital had to open a dedicated "measles" ward to deal with the daily influx of measles patients.

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Nationally, 639 measles cases for the year so far had been recorded at the end of last week.

This is seriously worrying news and some health experts have said we are nearing epidemic levels.

Let that sink in for a hot minute. An epidemic of a disease that could easily be eradicated by now.

If only there was a way we could bring these numbers down, right? Good news, there is!

It is unfathomable that things have come to this, in a first-world county, because of the so-called "informed choices" of a section of the population.

"Freedom of choice" is being utterly misused to cause harm to others, daily, and it is literally putting lives at risk.

You shouldn't have the right to make a choice that puts others at risk. I don't have the right to choose to go over the speed limit because, if my choice results in a death, I end up in prison.

We all accept that there are things that do not fall under "personal" choice. You wouldn't argue that it's your right, as a free citizen, to not wear a seatbelt or to drive intoxicated.

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The choice to not vaccinate is the furthest thing from a "personal" choice. A personal choice is what brand of coffee to drink or whether or not to breastfeed. A personal choice is exactly that: personal. It only impacts you.

Vaccines don't impact just you. They are not a matter of personal choice, unless your personal choice is to be socially irresponsible and puts people at risk.

"Freedom of choice" is reserved for flat whites and pizza toppings, not for drink driving and not for vaccines.

In fact, being anti-vaccines is the absolute height of privilege.

People in developing countries, who cannot access vaccines they desperately need, don't get to choose to be anti-vaccines.

People who are immuno-compromised don't get to choose to be anti-vaccines. They rely on people around them to be vaccinated in order to help keep them safe.

Anti-vaxxers have read all these arguments before but continue to choose to distrust science and trust some dodgy URL they found on Google or Facebook instead.

I'm under no illusion this column will convince anyone who thinks vaccines are evil. Some might be reading this thinking I'm in the pocket of big pharma (my bank manager can quickly debunk that myth for you).

That's fine. I'm not here to convince anti-vaxxers. In fact, I officially give up on them.

If you choose to not vaccinate, I give up on you completely. You are actively choosing to put my child at risk and I'll be damned if I ever forgive or accept someone doing that.

What I refuse to give up on is the idea that it's the government's obligation to take action on this. It's time to make vaccines mandatory for those who can have them.

Studies from other countries show disease rates dropped after making vaccines compulsory. It's time to do the same in New Zealand.

Sitting on our hands doing nothing while people keep contracting diseases that could easily be eradicated is the very definition of negligence.

Health Minister David Clark. Photo / NZ Herald
Health Minister David Clark. Photo / NZ Herald

Health Minister David Clark has previously said that the government will not make vaccines compulsory because it doesn't want to "punish children for the decisions of their parents".

A couple of issues with that statement: a vaccine is not a punishment, it's a literal lifesaver. Also, by choosing not to make vaccines a prerequisite for school enrolments, the government is actively choosing to put children at risk.

The truth is you cannot be anti-vaccines and claim to care about children. You care about your child, but you do not care about children in general. And if you claim you do, then you've got to be ignorant to how "herd immunity" works.

This outbreak is proof we can't trust people to make the right choice. It's time for the government to do it for them.