Measles and Freedom

It is a false equivalency to claim that requiring measles vaccine is the same as being arbitrarily forced by government to do something unnecessary or dangerous. The dispute has to do with individual freedoms versus the common good.

We do many things for the common good. The central points I would make are that failure to vaccinate puts others at risk, and the vaccines themselves are quite safe. I don’t believe anyone has a right to create risk for others when vaccines are so effective and safe.

Polio vaccine is opposed in a few parts of the world because it is claimed that it is a Western plot to make Muslim girls sterile. Ridiculous, of course, but a president of a Muslim African country bought into this conspiracy theory some years ago and forbid vaccination. Some of that country’s pilgrims to Mecca then brought polio with them, and others took it home with them to their own countries, thus setting back by decades the attempt to eradicate polio when it was almost gone.

Measles too has had a comeback because of inadequate vaccination. About 85% of a population must be vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity”.

In many parts of the world parents will bring their children miles for the chance to be vaccinated. They view it as a great gift of the Western world that will keep their children safe from very real danger. They are right.

Refusal to vaccinate for measles
violates the rights of others.

But what about the CDC reports of over a hundred deaths caused by the MMP (measles, mumps, pertussis) vaccine? These deaths are not related to vaccines. Reports in alternative health magazines and sites list cases in which the MMP vaccine is part of the death report, as found on CDC data bases. But these only say that the child had received the vaccine. That doesn’t say the vaccine caused the death, which was commonly because of birth defect of the heart, a genetic disorder, SIDS, or other complication. There was not a single case where death from the vaccine could be clearly shown.

Government requires many things of us, including seat belts and smoke alarms. All such requirements have been claimed to limit our presumed “freedom” on the same grounds people claim for vaccination. Requiring vaccination does not violate individual rights. On the contrary, refusal to vaccinate for measles violates the right of others to be free of an easily controlled disease.

Smoke alarms save not only your life, but the lives of others whose homes might burn when yours does. No one should be free to purposely endanger neighbors when inexpensive and effective alarms are available. Nor are you free to endanger yourself, because your death or permanent injury will always be a cost the public must bear, starting with firefighting costs. Dangers from smoke alarms arise only from their absence. Any freedoms lost are those of others.

Requiring smoke alarms
does not violate individual freedoms.

Measles vaccine prevents about a million deaths every year. Serious complications from the vaccine itself are almost nonexistent. This is beyond question. The chance of injury or death from backing your car out of the driveway is far higher.

Some people believe that there is a conspiracy at the CDC, that they are hiding the risk of measles vaccine. There isn’t, and the case of aspirin use in children illustrates the way the CDC operates to protect public health. Aspirin is 116 years old and has been safely used by billions of people. Nonetheless, around 1980, aspirin was suspected to be a complicating factor in a few rare cases of Reye Syndrome in children when it was given for viral infection. After research proved this link aspirin was no longer advised for children.

The point here is that even a very small risk factor can trigger removal of a medication from use when so advised by government agencies. No such step has ever been necessary for any vaccine, although the MMP vaccine is not given to babies under one year for other medical reasons.

Refusing vaccination for your children is similar to refusing to install smoke alarms in your home. Without smoke alarms, you endanger not just yourself but also your neighbors. Without vaccination, you endanger people for whom measles may be more dangerous, particularly babies and persons already ill. No one has the right to do this.

Refusing vaccination
is similar to refusing
to install smoke alarms.

The measles your child gets may be a minor inconvenience to you, easily recovered from. However, measles is extremely contagious.

Babies under one are not vaccinated against measles, and can get measles by being in the same room with someone infected, say, at the doctor’s office, whether or not they have symptoms. The danger to babies, especially babies who are already suffering from an illness, is greater than to older children. I am in complete agreement with pediatricians who reject patients who refuse to take these simple and effective steps to stop disease, thereby endangering other people.


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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I suppose that the idiots who put their children at risk believe that their god or jesus will protect them. There is too much emphasis on so-called personal freedom in the U.S.of A. it seems to me and not enough emphasis on the rights of all of the people as a whole.But then again I’m a socialist.


    • I don’t think it has anything to do with socialism. Closer to selfishness and lack of caring. Asian cultures are much more attuned to what’s good for everyone. In Japan, thousands of wallets were turned in to the police after the tsunami, complete with cash. Almost anything lost will find its way back to the owner.


      • Well I was going to suggest that but after being castigated and bannedfrom another bloggers site for remarks deemed to be denigrating the USA I thought better of it 😛


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