It’s been more than two years since parents were threatened with fines and/or jail in Maryland and elsewhere if they didn’t vaccinate. And now we have the news about the snatching of an unvaccinated, home-schooled child from an airplane by the Swedish government as the family was about to move to India, as well as a Christian sect in Malawi barricading itself against being forced to vaccinate their children against measles.
Clearly, until and unless we support organizations that support our rights as parents, we are all at risk. In honor of the launching of the first “American Rally for Personal Rights”, I resubmit the following ever timely column, originally posted in 2007:
Call me naive, but I don't think that most people who unquestioningly promote vaccination as the end-all and be-all of preventive health care are evil or have evil intent. In fact, other than a possible select few, I think most ardent vaccine supporters honestly believe they are helping humanity.
Perhaps they are. And if properly designed studies ever are conducted, time will tell.
Regardless of their intent, however, I do not view their unwavering support as benign, fair-minded or responsible.
For as the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
In the past week, pavement of that road has appeared to bring us closer than ever to that wretched place. I am referring, of course, to recent efforts to force vaccination in Maryland by threatening parents with jail.
There are so many aspects of this story that are alarming, it is hard to know where to begin. But let me start with what I once said in a speech from which I will be quoting: "We parents deserve the right to choose what we feel is best for the children we love, and for whom we are responsible. No one else will be expected to care for our children if the vaccines or diseases maim them. No one else’s heart will be broken like ours if they are killed or otherwise harmed."
No one, indeed.
Of course, the all-trusting supporters of vaccination will argue that vaccine damage is minimal and that the benefits outweigh the risks. But as anyone who has read my column knows, from what I can tell and have provided credible evidence for, those studies that purport to show zero to minimal damage are based on flawed research, which includes, in part 1) improper comparisons between vaccinated groups and the failure to include any never-vaccinated people as controls, 2) outright dismissal of virtually all anecdotal and other evidence, as well as failure to properly follow up on any of it, and 3) dismissal of biological evidence in support of damage claims.
But even if vaccines had been genuinely shown to be mostly safe, there are some very insidious things going on here. As the National Vaccine Information Center has aptly warned, "If it happens to your child, the risks are 100%". Thus, implied in the argument that damage is minimal is a dismissal of the harm done to some children. I would submit that the amount of harm vaccines do is unknown. But even if it were small, the implication is that vaccine damage or death is less important than disease damage or death, or that all that matters is sheer numbers. And although most would not say this directly, also implied is that vaccine-harmed children are less important than disease-harmed ones.
Vaccine-damaged children are also often treated like drafted casualties in our war against disease. It is as if being drafted for this purpose is inherently a good thing, an honorable thing, that vaccine risk is obviously a risk well worth taking. Even if it were a good thing, however, isn't it a risk that the parents of the potentially damaged child should be allowed to take? Is it right to force vaccinations on anyone? Does the end justify the means?
And isn't the very subtle implication that only death or harm from disease is "bad"; that death or harm from a vaccine is somehow okay or "good", because it is in support of the "cause" of "public health"?
Also implied in the argument that it is okay to force vaccination is the notion that "you", an unwilling vaccine participant, should be forced to vaccinate your child(ren) to protect "my" (the one who seeks protection) child(ren) from disease. There are two major problems with this argument. First, why should someone be required to risk their child for another? What makes the child being "protected" more important than the "protector"?
Second, if the vaccines work, anyone choosing them will be protected. If they don’t prevent the spread of the disease to the vaccinated, why are we vaccinating? It hardly seems right that those who don’t want to be vaccinated should have vaccination forced on them because vaccines don’t always work.
And to whatever extent vaccines are being required because the 'immune suppressed' cannot be vaccinated, and are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of disease, while my heart goes out to such people, they are not more important than children who are harmed by vaccines. Nor should the notion that vaccination may in itself be creating immune suppression be left out of this equation.
Besides there is documented proof of outbreaks in 100% vaccinated populations.
The irony is, of course, that even if they don't recognize it, those who support forcing vaccination are doing so precisely because they don't believe in the effectiveness of vaccines.
Moreover, where is the sense of history, the recognition that medicine as practiced and promoted has often been found to be lacking or even just plain, dead wrong?
But even if we were to assume virtually 100% effectiveness and safety of vaccines, is forcing vaccines in a free society ever justified? As I said in that speech, "I also consider any notion of 'public health' to be suspect, which sacrifices the individual to some alleged higher goal. Many of us find it way scarier that the state would sacrifice children to someone's idea of the common good, than to take our chances with Mother Nature. Who decides? What's the right number? Who's counting? Even in wartime, the draft of adults is only used very judiciously and sparingly. We also go to considerable effort to avoid enemy civilian casualties. Yet we seem to think nothing of sacrificing our own innocent children."
Our brave soldiers have fought and died, and will continue to fight and die, in order to protect us from tyranny which threatens our freedom and way of life, including what the Declaration of Independence "hold(s) to be self-evident", the right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".
Do we really want to force vaccination and violate this most basic American right? Do we really want to pave that road?
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." - Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), paraphrasing John Philpot Curran (1808)