A free society demands social responsibility.
Let me begin by saying my parents were very socially responsible. I was the naughty child, too smart for her own good, who never brought the vaccination permission slips home from school, and thus, missed out on the Small Pox vaccine (seriously. I must be the only person my age that doesn’t have a scar on my upper right arm.) I’ve also never been tested for TB. I know for sure about those. (Hey, shots hurt!)
I’m not sure about Measles, and my childhood medical records have long since turned to dust, which is why I got the MMR vaccine this week.
I was also born before measles became a regular childhood vaccine. (Anyone born before 1989 is likely under-immunized since the second booster shot was introduced that year.) If I got the mumps vaccine, it was the old, shitty one they don’t use anymore because it mostly didn’t work. I have had a Rubella shot, because my OBGYN insisted.
Much has been debated recently about parents having the right to refuse vaccinations for their kids, mostly from the same people who want to give fetuses personhood rights. I know, the contradiction is enough to make one’s head explode, but science and logic aren’t big with these people.
Are vacinations really a choice?
When I was little, I remember my mother taking me down to the local pharmacy, where they were administering the polio vaccine for free. It was some pink drops on a cube of sugar. We went three times. Those were the best vaccinations ever.
In high school, I had a friend who had polio. Super hot boy, who would be on elbow brace crutches for the rest of his life, all because he had been born in a third world country where they didn’t have the polio vaccine, and he contracted it.
Measles isn’t always fever and a rash. Measles can do a lot of damage. It can even kill you.
(NPR: Beyond Rash And Fever: How Measles Can Kill)
Imagine a young adult today, fresh out of high school, who, due to her parents beliefs about vaccinations, wasn’t vaccinated as a child. She contracts measles, and ends up blind. Who’s responsible for that? Well, most children in the US get their first MMR vaccine around their first birthday, with a second booster before they start school around age 4.
As a child under 6 years of age, you really have no say in your medical care. That’s your parents responsibility.
So, does our young, blind 18 year-old have legal grounds to sue her parents? And what about an infant, who is too young for the vaccine, if they end up with the same fate because some parent refused to vaccinate their child who contracts and spreads the disease. Do those parents have the legal grounds to sue that parent who refused to vaccinate their child, making them a danger to the public at large?
What if that infant dies? Who’s responsible? Should the infant’s family sue the irresponsible parents who disregarded science and decades of millions of successful vaccinations, refusing to vaccinate their child, thus putting the public at large, especially infants who haven’t been immunized because they’re too young, in danger of illness at the very least, and blindness, deafness, brain damage, and death at worst?
It’s great that school districts are stepping up across the country and not allowing admission without proof of vaccinations. It’s an awesome step. But even if someone is forced to home-school their child because they refuse to immunize them, what about the rest of the public places that child will go? The park? The mall? The cinema? The supermarket? Disneyland? What about all those people being exposed? Sure, most people are socially responsible, don’t mock proven science, and don’t want to get sick. But sometimes even vaccinated people don’t gain enough immunity to fight off disease.
And what about those with compromised immune systems from things not at all of their own making? The elderly, people undergoing chemo, anyone who recently had major surgery, or those who’ve been exposed to toxic chemicals on the job? The list is endless.
We are indeed, our brother’s keeper. If you get sick, there’s a risk you can infect others. It’s why preventative care is now free, so people will seek medical care (which should be called Wellness Care), so it doesn’t turn into a hospital stay or worse. It’s also why if you’re sick, STAY THE FUCK HOME, and don’t spread your cooties to everyone. Chances are karma will kick your ass by mutating that strain so after everyone at the office has had it, you’ll get it back again, only worse this time. It’s called evolution.
It’s also why everyone everywhere should have medical coverage, and why we really need to eventually go to universal single payer for everyone within our borders, because even though I might have health insurance, it’s not going to magically protect me from the virus that uninsured person has who just hacked up a lung on me at the grocery store.
So, are vaccinations really a choice? No. No they’re not if you want yourself and everyone you know to have a fighting chance of avoiding a preventable disease.