This is a topic I really wish I never had to discuss and I think there are about a million more relevant than this given the choices, in my opinion, are so clear. Yet after an email exchange with a friend I came to realize there are a couple of important political questions here as well as substantiation of that old question, once again, so it’s time to give this some thought. To make this a little easier let’s look at the three main dimensions of the augment: The Science, Personal Liberty and Political Lunacy (Let’s include media coverage under lunacy):
The Science: A One Sided Debate
While I will acknowledge there are some who will vigorously disagree with on this point, rarely has there been a scientific question where the argument is so one sided. Vaccines have saved quite literally billions of lives, mostly in the last century and there is likely no other single medical advancement which has been as impactful to humanity (maybe antibiotics). Given I didn’t get past second year anatomy and physiology in collage I will leave the scientific points to those with letters behind their name, but the medical evidence is near unanimous, and not narrowly, that vaccines reduce illness due to major diseases and there is quite simply no quantitative studies which have been subject to repeatability and critique to support major dangers of taking the vaccine. The worst case is in some cases there is a statistically small chance of getting the underlying condition but in these cases those chances are well below the chances of contracting the condition without the vaccine. My advice to readers is think for yourself, read reliable studies and information and avoid the “junk science” that is pervasive on the internet.
So much for being nice to the scientific community as much of the anti-vaccine feelings can be directly traced to the total failure of the scientific community to make its case. Newsflash, we live in a democracy not a science worshiping totalitarian world. You need to make the case to the people and win their trust no matter how much contempt you seem to have for people (more on this later). In recent weeks I can’t count the number of times I have seen network health/science correspondents and/or TV Doctors say, essentially “get vaccinated because we tell you to”. What makes this totally aggravating is they have the science overwhelmingly on their side. The real skill of science in the media is to distill often complex data and arguments into a persuasive and understandable case without being contemptuous of the people themselves. My best advice if you are even giving just a little consideration to not vaccinating your children (and yes getting adult boosters) is talk to your family physician who we assume you trust (if Obamacare still lets you see them) and have a serious talk with them. This decision is truly one of life and death and if made wrong has Darwin Award written all over it.
Personal Liberty: No Exception to the Sanctity of the Person
Part of the debate in recent weeks has been as to when the state should force people to be vaccinated, my reply is NEVER. Nothing is more values to the very concepts of American Freedom and Liberty as the sanctity of the individuals very body from state intrusion barring the most compelling circumstances (vaccines don’t even come close here). This is a simple bright line test, much as free speech, and the true test is standing up for this right when you think the individual is being an idiot. That being said, choice comes with consequences and those choosing not to vaccinate their children should bear those costs without all the wining. Just as the state can compel an individual to wear eye glasses if they want a diver’s license, States should require vaccines in order to enter any public school. Don’t want to vaccinate your kids, enjoy home schooling all the way through high school. As for private schools and colleges and universities, as private institutions they have the choice of rules to set for attendance and given the enormous litigation risk, I doubt many would allow entry to unvaccinated. As a conservative core to my views is the concept of individual rights and individual responsibility; this is one case where the accountability for your actions lands squarely on you the individual.
Now a lawyer friend responded to this argument when I made it, and I paraphrase “well if your unvaccinated Johnny gives my vaccinated (not all vaccines take) sally the (insert horrible medical condition here) then I should be able to make a civil claim for damages. As I said every choice has consequences and leaving aside the potential difficulty of proving direct person to person causation even at the lower standard of more likely than not, let the jury decide. As I said under science, the onus is on the scientific and medical community to make this case and on that they have failed. Yet just because you have a right, it most certainly does not mean you should exercise that right.
The Political Circus: Lunacy, Lies and our Culture of Celebrity
This is a story made for the 24 hour news cycle and the media is milking it for all its worth. Additionally those on the left and their tools in the media have been quick to blame the conservative Neanderthals. But facts are an inconvenient thing. That noted medical expert and outspoken vaccine opponent Jenny McCarthy based on her time on The View and disclosed political contributions is a Democrat. Indeed the Hollywierd crowd is the source of much of the misinformation on the subject. Now in her defense much of the anti vaccine fear comes from the skyrocketing rates of Autism. The failure to research the causes of this may be the biggest failing of environmental science in the last 3 decades. But if you are getting your medical advice from a TV/Radio host whose leading resume line is former Playboy Playmate then well, you live with the consequences. Now I would hope that GOP presidential contenders would have a better answer to this ambush question than Gov. Chris Christie (pander babble). Rand Paul gave a well thought out replay, as he usually does and while I do not totally agree, it is well conceived. The rest, do some thinking, the reporters from TMZ, MSNBC and the National whatever are lurking in wait!
To all others, please do the smart thing, the right thing and get your kids vaccinated and to us adult, have a conversation with your doctor at your next annual physical about your own vaccination status.
The Mayo Clinic – Childhood vaccines: Tough questions, straight answers
The Centers for Disease Control – Measles: Make Sure Your Child Is Protected with MMR Vaccine
For a more conservative perspective:
2 thoughts on “Vaccines & Measles: Science, Liberty and Political Lunacy”
Since I work in an Urgent Care, I can’t treat anyone’s fears about vaccines with contempt, not to their face anyway. But in my experience you are correct that the misinformation isn’t confined to any political preference. My little town of 9,000 is about evenly divided between strong advocates of holistic, alternative medicine and rural libertarians. Traditional medicine is all about balancing risks vs benefits. Vaccinations are the least risky, least expensive and most effective medicines ever devised. You can choose an alternative, but every alternative we know of so far fails to lower your risk of getting the diseases.
You are aware that scientists work for a living, that they are not public debaters. Exactly how does the entire scientific community patronise you and supposedly the rest of the public like you. By and large scientists are interested in their work, not making trouble for anyone. Please get off the high horse of victimhood, it’s really not merited here. No one is forcing you or anyone to worship scientists. Certainly not the scientists themselves. Please get off, you don’t look dignified, just ridiculous.