The conflict between personal choice and communal responsibility shapes the debate on whether vaccinations should be mandatory.
That debate will intensify, as diseases thought defeated return to Europe.
Last year, in the WHO European region, 21,315 people got measles; 35 died.
That is a 400% increase on 2016 and has led to a meeting of health ministers in Montenegro, today, to discuss immunisation.
France has decided to make 11 vaccines mandatory. Italy has banned non-vaccinated children from schools. Beatrice Lorenzin, the health minister, has said falling vaccination rates were “an emergency generated by fake news”.
Australia has gone further. Many states have ‘No Jab, No Pay’ laws, by which unvaccinated children are banned from preschool or daycare centres.
Parents entitled to child benefit payments will not get them if they don’t vaccinate their children.
In America, all states ban children from schools if vaccinations are not up-to-date, though some allow medical, religious, or philosophic exemptions.
Despite the evidence, vaccinations are not obligatory in Ireland — we trust each other to do the right thing.
Whether that trust is misplaced or not is an open question, but anyone familiar with the catastrophic impact rubella can have on an unborn child and their family would regard it as, at best, reckless, and, at worst, intolerably dangerous.
We should have the confidence to insist that the common good prevails.