Monday, February 27, 2012

Vaccinations: A Legitimate Function of the Government?

            On February 19th, I published a blog titled “Freedom and Liberty? What are Those?” In it, I listed several ways in which I believe the government has overstepped its Constitutional boundaries. One of these issues was government-mandated vaccinations for all children without parental consent. (This is the current law in California.) I believe that parents should have the right to decide what needles get stuck into their children’s arms. To my surprise, Chris disagreed with my stance on this particular issue.

            While he is entitled to disagree (by which I mean he is allowed to be wrong), I decided to delve into this topic in further detail. On the surface, this seems like a clear example of government interference in personal health decisions and parenting rights. I agree with Chris that it’s not quite as simple as that.

            Vaccinations have drastically reduced – or eliminated – the number of deaths from diseases that routinely killed large numbers of our not-so-distant-ancestors. Smallpox has been eradicated, as has polio. Measles, mumps, whooping cough, and rubella are nearly a bad collective memory. Vaccinations are effective.

            However, the only way vaccinations can effectively eradicate a disease is when the population at large participates. Once people have been immunized and there is no one left to catch the disease, it goes away. (I’m sure there’s a better way to explain this in scientific terms, but you understand what I mean.) It is in the best interests of the society for all members who interact with other members to be vaccinated.
            Chris believes that the needs of the many outweigh the needs – or the rights – of the individual where vaccinations are concerned. It’s a matter of public safety, he says. It’s an issue where the government needs to intervene, by force, without parent consent if necessary, to ensure that all children are vaccinated.

            But – and it’s a big BUT – I wonder if it is really necessary for the government to force a person to have vaccinations? Won’t most people choose to have their children vaccinated if they understand the horrors of the diseases they prevent and the extremely low incidence of side-effects the vaccines may cause? Are the few people who still refuse to have their children immunized for religious or philosophical reasons really a danger to society as a whole? I say let pediatricians take up the crusade for 100% immunization and leave the government out of it.

Food for thought:
Katherine Mangu-Ward | February 24, 2012
I hope I have recorded Chris's words on this subject correctly. Any misinterpretation is completely due to an error on my part.  


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