Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Vaccinations, Seat Belts, and Social Safety

Paranoid America: Vaccinations, Seat Belts and Social Safety Hot button issues seem to abound these days. I suppose they always do, on a rotating basis. Funny how the same issues seem to stand in the shadows waiting their turn for debate even when we all thought the debate was over long ago, done, gone, settled and the settlement agreed upon by consensus. Today, February 2, the big news centers on whether or not to vaccinate our children against diseases that science has proven are preventable by vaccination. Ten years ago vaccines were linked to autism with no scientific proof that there is a correlation. The man who made the link apparently falsified his data to support his position. Once his unethical behavior was discovered, the study was disavowed by The Lancet and the author’s medical license was revoked. But the link became a rumor and was taken as true. Once again, lies lied loudly strike a deeper chord with the public than the truth. There are risks to vaccinating your child. They are small. They are not small if it is your child who succumbs to them. But they are infinitely smaller than the risks of not vaccinating your child. Before vaccinations against measles became a possible protocol, upwards of a thousand American children died every year from that disease. In 1955, I myself almost joined that statistic. The recent measles outbreak – the disease affecting primarily non-vaccinated individuals – has re-awakened the debate that should not be. Ophthalmologist and Senator, Rand Paul links vaccinations to the onset of “mental disorders.” Pundits are trying to figure out what political gain his position will render him. If Conservatives continue to deny proven science as a road to election, they will rely on unsubstantiated fears to promote their agenda, making disease prevention a political issue. Now the question extends to making vaccinations mandatory, and, possibly, allowing parents to sue other parents who allowed their non-vaccinated child to expose theirs to preventable disease. I am not in favor of more litigation in the most litigious nation in the world. I am also reluctant to see more legislation dictating to us what should be “Common Sense.” However, nine to ten percent of Americans are electing not to vaccinate their children, and 42% of the 18-25 demographic think vaccinations are unnecessary. The fact that they are dead wrong must be addressed. “Common Sense” is constantly legislated. Personal choice is not an issue when it comes to wearing seat belts in a car: it’s the law. Perhaps we need to remove that law to protect our individual rights? I do fear the erosion of my rights, but I fear more the stupidity of my fellow Americans. In Montana, car fatalities are rare enough that any one of them is statewide news no matter where in the state the crash occurred. Since I have lived here, all but one fatality on the highways involved a driver and/or passenger who was not buckled in. They made a choice. They broke the law. In retrospect, I would guess that each of them would rather have been caught and fined. The point is, however, that the law was designed to protect them, and us. Two years ago, a seatbelt saved Diane’s life. Even if it were not the law, I elect to buckle up every time I go anywhere in a motor vehicle. “Common Sense” extends to talking on cell phones and texting while driving. Measles and other dangerous diseases are not automobiles, obviously, but consider this: if ten percent of the population is not vaccinated and there is an outbreak that affects them, not only are their lives at risk but the disease might have time to mutate into a strain that would endanger the vaccinated, leading to a pandemic. This is the extreme, I know, sort of the dystopian realignment of the world so beloved by teen novels. The solution is simple. We don’t have to legislate. We only must allow schools – all schools – to insist that any child entering that school prove immunization. Parents who don’t like this can elect to home school and keep their children in total isolation. Fear is an effective tool of control. Do not surrender your freedom out of fear. At the same time, protection increases from an abundance of caution. As of yet, there are no vaccines against stubbornness or stupidity, or boosters to increase common sense. There is no scientific data linking vaccination to “mental disorders” or any other neurological condition such as autism. Perhaps, instead of preaching fear, we should focus on teaching science.

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