Stephanie Smith: The selfish few can place all children at risk

For those in search of examples of pure selfishness, look no further than the school playground.

I’m talking about the parents, not the children, although selfish, thoughtless parents do seem to breed selfish, thoughtless children – which should come as a surprise to no one.

You know the type – the parents who shove their kids to the front of every group or gathering, every photograph, every tombola stall, every queue for face painting, fairground rides and free stuff.

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The parents who, at school pick-up time, keep all the other parents who need a quick word with the teacher waiting 20 minutes while they demand to be shown the latest technique in long division, so they can help their “little star” progress.

These are the parents who don’t really understand that other children exist, other than as play-mates and comparison tools for their own offspring. They certainly don’t compute that other children are just as entitled, just as worthy and just as important as their children.

Not just when it comes to teaching and attention and treats, but also to being protected from harmful, potentially fatal diseases.

Take the MMR jab, which the NHS recommends children have at around 12 to 13 months old to protect against measles, mumps and rubella. For the population to be protected, take-up needs to be 95 per cent, so it’s heartening to hear that in the UK, take-up levels have recovered from the dangerous dip that began in 1998, when a report falsely linked autism to the triple jab.

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Still some parents refuse it. I remember one mum loftily informing me that she hadn’t had her child vaccinated because “these diseases are not common round here”.

“That’s because most of us make sure our children have the jab,” I pointed out. She wasn’t impressed.

Thankfully, her child had left the school by the time my son returned after completing cancer treatment, his immune system compromised by five rounds of chemotherapy, but I did worry, as many parents still must, how many other jab-free children could pass on a potentially catastrophic disease.

The Australian government this week announced it’s to stop welfare payments to parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, including those with religious objections, while in the US, 143 pupils were removed from a school in Washington because they couldn’t prove they had had vaccinations, amid fears of a large measles outbreak across America.

It shouldn’t have to come to this in the UK. But is it right that the selfishness of a few parents still has the potential to put all our children at risk?

• Twitter: @yorkshirefashQ