To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate

4 June 2015


Last week, an e-mail popped into our in box calling for voters in California and Vermont to campaign against state laws that will limit the allowable

exemptions from mandatory vaccinations.  Sent by an

organizations called Citizens for Health, the appeal cites

“bodily integrity and personal and domestic sovereignty”,

alluding to some vague potential loss of liberty and

founding constitutional principles.


Notably absent from this appeal is any mention of the responsibilities that necessarily accompany freedom.  What Citizens for Health considers “the essence of American liberty” – the right to refuse an immunization – inherently includes the ability to pose risk to others.  Refusing a vaccination places you at risk for contracting the particular disease.  Once infected, you become a vector for transmission.  You are now a danger to infants, transplant recipients, cancer patients, those living with HIV/AIDS, the elderly, and others with weakened or compromised immune systems.  While you may have the right to place yourself at risk, that right does not extend to posing danger to others.


There is a powerful meme on Facebook that asks “Remember that time you got polio?  Of course not, because your parents had you vaccinated.”  There is no arguing with that sentiment.  The statistics speak for themselves.  The absence of smallpox in our world is a result of what Citizens for Health term “forced medical treatments.”  Perhaps equally troubling is that this freedom from illness is enjoyed because herd immunity is gained via widespread immunization.  Those demanding the right to refuse vaccination rely on others to provide this protection.  There is something perversely shortsighted and selfish in this.  Guaranteeing others the basic liberty we enjoy is an essential aspect of our freedom.  Concentrated self-interest is not.

Measles Surge Back

The resurgence of measles in the United States is a triumph of half-truths, the internet, and emotion over rational science and documented results. The childhood immunization

MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) was responsible for the elimination of measles from the Americas, the last endemic case occurring in 2002. In 1998, MMR was cited in a since disproven medical journal article as a cause of autism. That false report resulted in a precipitous drop in childhood and travel vaccinations. As a result, people who have no immunity – either from immunization or as a


result of having the disease – are becoming infected while visiting a region where measles still exists and bringing the virus back to the U.S.

Upon return to the States, an exposed individual can in turn infect others with no or limited immunity. Because measles is highly contagious – 90 percent of those in close proximity to an infected individual will contract the disease – it poses a particular danger for schools, workplaces, and public gathering venues. Measles can take several days to become symptomatic. Symptoms include high fever (exceeding 104˚F), malaise, loss of appetite, hacking cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash that can cover much of the body.

MMR Vaccination.jpg

Complications of measles are common, and can include diarrhea, pneumonia, otitis media (ear infections), encephalitis, and corneal ulceration. Complications are usually more severe in adults than in children. Three in 1000 cases are fatal.

Measles is spread through respiration; from either direct contact with fluids from the nose and mouth or through aerosol transmission. The presence of an infected individual could have significant impact on a school or place of business. Those who have travelled to an area where measles is known to exist, or those who live or work with someone who has, should watch for the emergence of symptoms within two weeks of returning. A high fever and the emergence of Koplik's spots (spots in the mouth) may indicate infection with measles. Because of extreme communicability, anyone with measles should be encouraged to stay home. This may require changes in policy, but will prevent mass infections that can cripple a classroom or business.

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