Boy Scouts are expected to embody virtues like being trustworthy, kind and obedient, but they are also expected to stay healthy — which is why national policy urges boys, teens and adults to stay up on their vaccinations.
However, due to the current debate on vaccine safety, this longtime health policy has received blowback from some families.
At least one Scout council has responded by stepping up its support for vaccinations, according to Bryan Wendell, senior editor of Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines of Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
In California’s Marin County, for instance, Scouting leaders created a “tongue-in-cheek” “Vaccinated Scout Law,” Mr. Wendell said Monday on his popular “Bryan on Scouting” blog.
The council’s list says that to a Scout, obedience means “he listens and follows the directions of his doctor and public health officials so [he] gets vaccinated.”
A thrifty Scout “recognizes prevention costs far less than treatment so saves money by getting vaccinated,” and a loyal Scout “looks out for others and wards off threats to his community by being vaccinated,” said the list, which attached similar statements to the virtues of being trustworthy, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, brave, clean and reverent.
The latter virtue said a reverent Scout “respects religious beliefs but knows that unless his faith forbids it, he gets vaccinated.”
Mr. Wendell and three doctors who serve on the Marin Council’s executive board further cited BSA policy on vaccinations, which asks its members to “adhere” to the joint recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians regarding age-appropriate vaccinations.
Scouts attending BSA programs or activities that require an annual health and medical record or specialty physical exam are “required to have current tetanus immunization,” unless they are formally exempted due to medical, religious or philosophical reasons, the Marin Council told its Scouting families.
Other “strongly recommended” immunizations protect against 11 other diseases, including hepatitis, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and influenza.
Marin County is one of the wealthiest, most-liberal and best-educated communities in the nation; it also has some of the lowest child-immunization rates.
Comments on Mr. Wendell’s blog drew approval from some Scouting families, especially those who remembered the terrible days of childhood polio and “iron lungs.”
Others, however, said concerns about vaccine injuries and an over-powerful pharmaceutical industry were driving them and their children away from vaccines, and they didn’t appreciate being told to take the jabs. “Maybe I missed the tongue-in-cheek part,” one woman wrote, “but I went right to insulted.”
“The importance of vaccinations as a matter of public health cannot be overstated,” the Marin Council said in its Feb. 18 letter to families.
“Polio is absent from our shores and smallpox has been completely eradicated thanks to vaccines,” wrote Dr. David E. Goodman, Dr. J. Claude Hemphill and Dr. Peter W. Sullivan.
“As Scouts and Scouters,” they added, “it’s our role to lead in these efforts … for after all, ‘A Scout is Helpful’ and what could be more helpful than preventing and perhaps eradicating disease.”