Jail for Belgians who reject polio shot

( AP ) - As doctors struggle to eradicate polio worldwide, one of their biggest problems is persuading parents to vaccinate their children. In Belgium, authorities are resorting to an extreme measure: prison sentences.

Two sets of parents in Belgium were recently handed five-month prison terms for failing to vaccinate their children against polio. Each parent was also fined $8,000.

"It's a pretty extraordinary case," said Dr. Ross Upshur, director of the Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto. "The Belgians have a right to take some action against the parents, given the seriousness of polio, but the question is, is a prison sentence disproportionate?"

The parents' sentences were delayed to give them a chance to vaccinate their children. But if that deadline also passes without the children receiving the injections, the parents could be put behind bars.

Because of privacy laws, Belgian officials would not talk specifically about the cases, such as why the parents refused the vaccine or how much longer they have to get their children vaccinated.

The polio vaccine is the only one required by Belgian law. Exceptions are granted only if parents can prove their children might have a bad physical reaction to the vaccine. There are no exceptions for people who object to vaccinations on religious grounds.

"Polio is a very serious disease and has caused great suffering in the past," said Dr. Victor Lusayu, head of Belgium's international vaccine center. "The discovery of the vaccine has eliminated polio from Europe and it is simply the law in Belgium that you have to be vaccinated. ... At the end of the day, the law must be respected."

The highly infectious disease is spread through water and mainly strikes children under 5. Initial symptoms include fever, headaches, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and fatigue. The polio virus invades the body's nervous system and can lead to irreversible paralysis within hours. In extreme cases, patients can die when their breathing muscles are immobilized.

Some ethicists back the hard-line Belgian stance.

"Nobody has the right to unfettered liberty, and people do not have a right to endanger their kids," said John Harris, a professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester.

"The parents in this case do not have any rights they can appeal to. They have obligations they are not fulfilling."

Aside from Belgium, only France makes polio vaccinations mandatory by law. In the United States, children must be immunized against many diseases including polio, but most states allow children to opt out if their parents have religious or "philosophical" objections.

In Maryland, prosecutors and school officials in one county threatened truancy charges against parents who failed to vaccinate their children. The measure sharply reduced the number of unvaccinated children although no one has been charged.

The only other case of mandatory polio vaccines is during the Muslim yearly Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. Pilgrims from polio-endemic countries must prove they have been vaccinated. Saudi officials even give them an extra dose upon arrival at the airport.

Since the polio virus can live in the human body for weeks, it jumps borders easily. That makes health officials even in developed countries nervous, since the threat of an outbreak remains as long as the virus is circulating anywhere.

Incidence has dropped by 99 percent since the World Health Organization and partners began their eradication effort in 1988. But the virus is still entrenched in Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan, and occasionally pops up elsewhere.

For developed countries, imported polio cases could cause chaos in the health system, warned Dr. Steve Cochi, an immunization expert at the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said that unlike other medical problems, in which rejecting treatment only affects the individual, refusing a vaccine for a transmissible disease such as polio puts others at risk as well.

Still, health officials doubt that Belgium's strategy will be useful to countries that are still battling polio.

"It is up to individual countries to decide their own policies, but we do not feel that imprisonment would help," said Dr. David Heymann, WHO's top polio official.

Iran's ten-month import of steel from Turkey drops
Iran's ten-month import of steel from Turkey drops
TOBB reveals total capital of Iranian companies registered in Turkey
TOBB reveals total capital of Iranian companies registered in Turkey
Uzbekistan reduces import of Turkish electrical goods in October
Uzbekistan reduces import of Turkish electrical goods in October
Loading Bars
Latest
Azerbaijan confirms 1,259 more COVID-19 recoveries
Bahar Azadi gold coin price again falling in Iran
Azerbaijan discloses data on destroyed houses in liberated Fuzuli district
Baku Media Center prepares video covering Armenian vandalism on occupied territories of Azerbaijan (VIDEO)
Russian president hopes for participation of int’l organizations in Karabakh conflict settlement
Power abuse by major states prevents resolving conflicts - Russian FM
Uzbek-Korean JV to buy electrical products via tender
Turkmenistan offers business opportunities for Switzerland in number of fields
North-South Corridor - on Iran's agenda - Minister of Roads and Urban Development of Iran
Turkish, Russian military personnel to jointly patrol in Nagorno-Karabakh - Turkish MoD
Azerbaijan shows footage from Abdal, Gulabli villages of Aghdam district (VIDEO)
Egyptian air operator enters Uzbek market
Uzbekistan to introduce changes to electricity payments in 2021
Iran assigns more funds to complete unfinished projects
Turkmenistan's Turkmennebit opens tender for purchase of equipment
Azerbaijan’s startup sector expects big investments
Iran's ten-month import of steel from Turkey drops
Tesla set to breach $500 billion in market value
State budget for 2021-2023 approved in Kazakhstan following amendments introduction
Kazakhstan's bitumen output exceeds 2020 plan as maintenance works held country-wide
Port of Baku reveals total 10M2020 cargo shipments
New railway vehicles put into operation in Iran
Iran`s Zarif to visit Moscow and Baku despite postponement
Kazakhstan looking to double renewables share in electricity production
Iran continues to cut reliance on oil revenue
Volume of container transshipment between Kazakh, Azerbaijani ports almost triples
LUKOIL refusing plans to construct giant petrochemical complexes
Iran, Qatar sign an extensive Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate cooperation
Switzerland names main trade statistics with Turkmenistan
Dry cargo transshipments through Baku port grow in 10M2020
LUKOIL says reducing oil exports to Europe is inevitable
Georgia receives new buses of modern standards
Georgian hazelnuts exports up
Georgia sees increase in export of tangerines
Ryanair wants to be 'at front of queue' for new 737 MAX order
Azercell’s Mobile Eye Clinic joins campaign for IDPs initiated by the UN (PHOTO)
El Al to launch Tel Aviv - Dubai flights next month
Kazakhstan’s third-quarter economic performance benefits from recovery of oil prices
Azerbaijan informs UNESCO, ISESCO about results of initial monitorings on liberated areas
Turkmenistan’s private sector participates in dev't of poultry farming
Iran discloses plan on creation of new jobs in Yazd Province
Destroyed Armenian positions firing at Azerbaijani army during recent hostilities shown (PHOTOS)
Central Bank of Azerbaijan discloses data from foreign exchange auction
CBI announces Iran's external debt
Azerbaijan starts to grow bananas - Azerbaijani Ministry of Agriculture
Azerbaijani servicemen help Armenians to move belongings from villages of Aghdam district (VIDEO)
PAYSIS expanding range of innovative services in Azerbaijan
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for November 24
E-Space reveals volume of EVs registered in Georgia
Azerbaijan discloses volume of tobacco harvested this season
Russian insurance agency to fund Uzbekistan’s hydrocarbon raw materials production
Iran to boost apple production
Georgia reveals volume of exported apples
Income of Chinese contractor of infrastructural projects in Georgia up
We were able to get necessary international support in key issue for us - President Aliyev
LUKOIL says $40/bbl is worst case scenario for oil prices
If we had not created necessary legal framework for resolving conflict, we could have faced problems today - President Aliyev
Iran registers order at COVAX to buy vaccine
Air traffic reduces in Georgia - EUROCONTROL
Second asphalt layer of Ashgabat-Turkmenabat highway being laid
Russian Export Center discloses value of support for exports to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan's import of limestone, cement down in 10M2020
Aghdam operation was part of our plans - President Aliyev
Kocharyan and Sargsyan, you have knelt before us - President of Azerbaijan
We will restore the city of Aghdam - President of Azerbaijan
No-one should worry, especially leaders of Western countries - President Aliyev
Pashinyan imprisoning captures all opposition, West remains silent - President Aliyev
Many times when I was on line of contact, in trenches, I thought that one day we would return - President of Azerbaijan
I said, Pashinyan, you personally must give us a timetable, you must do it yourself - President Aliyev
We have destroyed enemy in hand-to-hand battle, crossing ravines, forests, mountains, and liberated Shusha - President Aliyev
Precious metal prices in Azerbaijan down
Victory on battlefield made it possible to liberate Aghdam district without a single shot - President of Azerbaijan
Today, many developed countries studying our experience - President of Azerbaijan
Some int'l organizations did not want to reveal identity of occupier in documents adopted - President Aliyev
We do not depend on anyone, do not depend on any country, on any int'l financial institution - President Aliyev
New gas condensate storage facilities to be launched in Iran's Asaluyeh County
Uzbekistan’s largest import of wood products falls on Russia
Uzbekistan eyes importing electricity from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan
Uzbek-Korean JV to buy spare parts for analyzer via tender
Azerbaijan indicts Armenian ex-defense minister on another article
To those questioning support for Azerbaijan territorial integrity, I suggest they read UNSC resolutions - Former Romanian FM
Turkmenistan considering possibility of growing pistachios
EBRD provides Azerbaijan with loan to improve environment in Ganja
Georgia reports 3,128 new coronavirus cases
Uzbekistan’s gov’t ready to back Ipoteka-Bank
UNICEF contributes to dev't of Turkmenistan's action plan for its national strategy
Israel's Netanyahu says will visit Bahrain soon
Iran reveals data on new enterprises in Hamadan province
President Aliyev presents Holy Quran he brought from Mecca to Aghdam mosque
Turkmenistan implements advanced technologies in oil, gas industry
Profit of Georgian banking system up
Raw sulfur output volumes drop in Kazakhstan
TOBB reveals total capital of Iranian companies registered in Turkey
Investments in Iran’s Hormozgan Province spike
Zenith Energy transporting drilling rigs outside of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani oil prices grow
Georgia reveals volume of assets of State Pension Fund
Uzbekneftegaz, Gazprombank in talks over financing of hydrocarbon production in Uzbekistan
Iran's exports via customs of Astara County increases
Uzbekistan reduces import of Turkish electrical goods in October
All news