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Mandatory or a Choice?

This was a piece I wrote last semester for a college class.

Mandatory or a Choice?

The controversy about vaccinations has remained constant for many years. The debate is usually a conflict with the idea whether or not individuals should be mandated to have vaccinations. Vaccines in recent years have predisposed individuals to certain diseases in order for the immune system to adapt to potential attack from a disease. While a majority find vaccines mandatory, there are individuals who have the opposite approach. 

According to the Public Health Reports, 63 percent of parents who delay or refuse vaccinations, reported that children could have serious side effects. According to CDC senior adviser, Amanda Cohn, “Assuming the same proportion of children born in 2016 didn’t get any vaccinations, about 100,000 children who are now younger than two aren’t vaccinated against 14 potentially serious illnesses.” Since 2001, the number of young children who do not receive any vaccinations has quadrupled since 2001 (Sun). The increasing number in individuals refusing vaccinations has put public health at risk and raised concern to health professionals. Due to threat to the public health, legislation should enforce individuals to be vaccinated.

In “How California Became a Role Model on Measles,” Oster and Knocks address the issues of refusing vaccinations. Oster and Knocks address the situation that caused a measles outbreak in the state of California. According to the article, “Limiting outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases relies on “herd immunity” (Oster, Kocks). In other words, if vaccination rates are low, a disease can easily cause an outbreak if it is introduced. Schools faced the most problems with students when it came to vaccinations. Enrolled students were labeled into two categories: conditionally admitted and personal belief exemption. The lack of up to date vaccinations in lower class areas in Los Angeles had to do with the high enrollment of conditionally admitted students. (Oster, Kocks). This was due to the fact there was little to no follow up on these conditionally admitted students which prolonged the time of not being vaccinated.

Legislation then enforced vaccinations and provided plans for vaccine completion over a six month period. The only exemption to be vaccinated was based on medical reasoning (Oster, Kocks). Mandatory vaccinations have showed increased number of vaccinations especially in students, primarily because without documentation of vaccination, a child may not be admitted into school. The policies that were placed reduced personal belief exemption rates and conditional enrollment rates decreased (Oster, Kocks). The effect of these laws lead to an increased number of vaccinated children and decreased the risk of disease outbreak. Individuals may not have changed their beliefs towards vaccinations, but the implementation of policies has showed a difference as many complied.

Oster and Knocks’ ethos is consistent in the article. Oster, a professor of Economics at Brown University and Kocks, an Economics and applied math student at Brown, demonstrate a strong writing strategy to support their claims but are biased. Oster and Kocks begin by addressing the measles occurrence at Disney land and establish a strong foundation to support their claims. Oster and Kocks claim, “The state passed Senate Bill 277 [...] and eliminated all personal belief exemptions.[...] The only remaining reasons were for medical reasons.” (Oster, Kocks). After claiming that personal belief exemptions are no longer valid and avoid addressing the alternate viewpoint Oster and Kocks state “Without seeing your vaccination records, a school is simply not allowed to enroll you. And children have to be enrolled in school” (Oster, Kocks 3). Even though Oster and Kocks demonstrate a strong mind towards making vaccinations mandatory, failing to address the opposing viewpoint can seem disrespectful and hurts their ethos.

Logos is Oster and Kocks’ strongest appeal. Oster and Kocks provide a logical, reasonable argument. The article begins with a brief description of the outbreak at Disneyland and provides statistics to outbreak rates and leads into how vaccinations have decreased outbreak rates after policies were implemented. In the article it claims, “At the Berkeley Rose School, [...] only 13 percent of kindergarteners were up to date with their vaccinations in 2014” (Oster , Kocks). Providing statistics of the low up to date vaccinations suggests that it can negatively impact public health. Oster and Kocks address two groups: conditionally admitted and personal belief exemption. In the article it states, “In Berkeley Rose School, [...] 87 percent had personal belief exemptions. [...] Lack of up to date vaccination was due mostly to conditional enrollment (Oster, Kocks). These statistics provide in the article by Oster and Kocks provides an insight on how low vaccination rates were before laws took place. Oster and Kocks also mention “[...] Stricter vaccination laws generate higher vaccination rates on average” (Oster, Kocks ). However, Oster and Kocks do not specify who administered the research, which reduces the effect of logical support. Still, Oster and Kocks provide statistics before and after policy implementation to demonstrate a cause and effect relationship between low vaccination rates and potential outbreaks.

With factual information being the foundation of this article, I did not find any evidence of pathos. Oster and Kocks did not connect to the audience with emotional stories, examples, or details in the article. They avoided use of emotionally loaded language which is an effective rhetorical strategy considering that the tone of this article is serious and provides facts and statistics. Oster and Kocks have connected with their audience's beliefs and assumptions only if their audience has the same viewpoint as them. That being said, Oster and Kocks did not connect with audience that has alternative viewpoints. The text seems manipulative due to the fact it partially blames personal belief exemptions to be one of the reasons outbreaks occur. The statistics used provide mostly information on the percentage of personal belief exemptions and the state senate bill 277 requiring vaccinations unless you have a medical reasoning (Oster, Kocks). 

The article also states how schools must have vaccination records in order for students to be enrolled. However, if students fail to comply they may not be admitted, and children are required to be enrolled in school (Oster, Kocks). This creates a manipulative aspect because it raises questions about if a child is not vaccinated due to personal belief, will they be taken out of school and what could be the consequence. Oster and Kocks’ appeal to this belief is not an effective use of pathos.

I read Oster and Kocks’ article as a believer because vaccinations have prevented me from getting ill in the past. I have gotten all of my vaccinations and have complied with school requirements for certain vaccines in previous years and I have never experienced “injury” due to a vaccination. I always felt that vaccinations have helped prevent diseases and strengthen my immune system for potential attacks. I am part of the group that believes vaccinations should be mandatory unless medical reasoning is given. I had a cousin give birth and as her child grew up, she did not have her child get the varicella vaccination and her child ended up getting exposed to chickenpox. That occurrence along with Oster and Kocks’ article have led me to believe vaccinations should be mandatory to keep the public healthy.

As a doubter, I put aside my strong beliefs about vaccinations being mandatory and attempted to understand why there would be alternate viewpoints. There are individuals who claim personal belief exemption to religion and religious views should be respected. There are vaccinations that contain pig genes and that is prohibited in certain religions and they should not be required to comply. Others may view vaccinations as ineffective and can cause injury instead. I had a close friend that gets flu shots every year, and one year that she received the vaccination she got a high temperature and had to be taken to the emergency room two weeks post vaccination. Vaccinations can be against someone's religious beliefs and forcing them to comply can seem disrespectful.

The debate about vaccines has remained steady for a long time. The discussion tends to be between those who believe vaccines should be mandatory and those who have the opposite viewpoint. Vaccinations have prevented numerous disease outbreaks and have kept the public healthy, However, the rising number in refusals can be putting the public health at risk. Emily Oster and Geoffrey Kocks have convinced me to get vaccinated because of the extreme decrease in disease exposure ever since policies were implemented.

Works Cited

Oster, Emily, and Geoffrey Kocks. “After a Debacle, How California Became a Role Model on Measles.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Jan. 2018,

Levs, Josh. “The Unvaccinated, by the Numbers.” CNN, Cable News Network, 5 Feb. 2015,