Friday, January 30

Vaccination debate - creating a culture of fear

Resurrecting ye olde blog because I finally have something worth writing about. VACCINES!! Everyone's favorite topic these days, judging from my Facebook. Just to mix things up a little, I'm going to NOT write about:
1) Whether or not vaccines work,
2) How evil vaccines are,
3) How evil the lack of vaccines are,
4) studies that "prove" one view or the other.

Instead, I'm going to consider the ramifications of the reheating of the "great debate." As much as I've tried to ignore this issue, I'm stung into thought every time I go on Facebook and see the latest inflammatory articles shaming non-vaccinating parents. It stuns me every time. It's the nicest, most charitable people who are posting these things, people who would otherwise be posting articles about how it doesn't matter whether you nurse or pump, or baby wear or don't, or homeschool or send your kids to school... people who otherwise respect other parents' decisions to do what they believe best for their kids. Yet when it comes to what is in essence a major health care decision - whether or not to vaccinate your children - they've turned rabid. Why? What is the difference between the vaccine issue and most other parenting-decision issues?

The answer lies in that "not vaccinating your kids affects everyone else's kids. If your unvaccinated children contract a disease and then give it to mine, your business becomes mine, and your decision about how to raise your kids affects my kids."

Let's think about this because it's a legit argument. On its face, it's accurate. The laws get to interfere with our rights when the exercise of our rights impinge on another's exercise of their rights. For example, we can exercise our right to religion so long as our religion doesn't involve killing other people because then, our right to free exercise of religion interferes with another's right to life. Make sense? In the same vein, one could argue that one parent's right to make health choices for their kids (not vaccinating) interferes with another parent's ability to keep their children healthy... because as the argument is being framed today, we need "herd immunity"... everyone needs to be vaccinated in order for vaccines to work.

Sometimes, the best way to answer arguments like this is to ask more questions. Say we have enough social outcry about kids getting sick and the government mandates vaccination. What have you just done? Out of fear, you have expanded the role of government into a place that it has no right to go... into people's homes, into one of the most fundamental choices we make - what we put into our bodies, or worse, what we put into our children's bodies. You could argue that this is an issue of such epic proportions that the government is justified in stepping in and making laws about it. But it's a slippery slope, people. It's called precedence... once you allow one kind of interference, it opens the door to another more egregious interference. If you approve the passing of laws that force parents to give their children vaccines, ask yourself, what follows? We pride ourselves on being "the land of the free and the home of the brave"... we castigate ourselves for criticizing other people's life choices, and yet we jump wholesale onto the "everyone needs to be vaccinated" bandwagon without a second thought.

Why is this? Fear. I'm afraid. I'm afraid to tell people my kids aren't vaccinated because I'm afraid they'll think I'm a stupid parent, an irresponsible parent, a careless parent, a crazy parent. I'm afraid my kids won't be allowed to play with theirs. I'm afraid to take my kids to the hospital and face the accusative castigation that goes along with treating an unvaccinated child. I'm afraid that if I take my kids somewhere and they get sick, it will be because I didn't vaccinate them. I'm afraid of vaccinating them and putting god-knows-what into their bodies and having god-knows-what kind of reaction. I'm afraid that I made the wrong choice and my kids will die. I'm afraid of offending someone who does vaccinate their kids... making them feel like they are bad parents. Because that's what this issue does... it turns parenting, which feeds off of support and community, into a war zone. The argument is cleverly framed. It preys on a parent's fear for their child's health. Fear makes us do irrational things, makes us stop thinking, forces us to jump into actions, which, when properly considered, we might do otherwise. So I'm asking... think for a minute.

Think... if we vaccinate everyone, will we eradicate disease? Will your child never get sick? Do you consider that maybe vaccines aren't as effective as they are touted to be and perhaps the reason your vaccinated kid gets sick is the same reason my unvaccinated kid gets sick. KIDS GET SICK. Everyone gets sick. It just happens. The healthiest lifestyle in the world will not prevent you from getting sick on occasion. Ok, maybe there's a chance that if everyone is vaccinated, we will get sick less often. But you know what? Vaccinating everyone is a pie in the sky argument. It isn't possible. Drugs are illegal, right? We still have a drug epidemic. Even if everyone was vaccinated and complied with the laws, disease will still spread... viruses will mutate and we'll need new vaccines. Certain demographics will not get vaccinated, the ones most likely to contract and carry diseases, who live lifestyles where illness is more prevalent. The question is, do you really want laws mandating vaccinations? Do you really want to open the door to allowing the government to say what you can and can't put in your child's body? Am I fear-mongering? No. I'm simply asking people to think where this outcry, this fear can lead.