Vaccine Denial: A Modest Proposal to Reduce the Controversy
By Staff News & Analysis - March 04, 2015

Vaccine Refusal Is Like Drunken Driving … Should you get your kids vaccinated against measles? Of course you should. You shouldn't do this, however, because it is risk-free. Drugs can have side effects, and although those documented for the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine are either minor or extremely rare, the risk of something bad happening isn't zero. And although the belief in a link between the MMR vaccine and autism is a superstition foisted upon the world by a showboating British doctor who has since lost his medical license, there may well be links between the vaccine and other maladies that we just don't know about yet. – Bloomberg

Dominant Social Theme: Vaccines are an important component in a healthy life.

Free-Market Analysis: These days we are noticing a number of articles in defense of vaccines. That can only mean one thing: The vaccine rate in the West and particularly in the US is likely continuing to fall.

Blame it on the Internet. This digital Gutenberg Press has revealed other perspectives on a variety of social promotions, from the efficacy of public schooling to the necessity for central banking to the fallacious core conclusions of global warming.

But it seems that the anti-vaccine movement is the one that is striking the most terror into the collective heart of the establishment. (Circumcision rates are well down, too, but that's a story for another day.)

Here's more:

For a long time, the risk of encountering measles in the U.S. didn't amount to much either. Thanks to near-universal vaccination, measles and other once-deadly childhood diseases had become vanishingly rare. I met a pediatrician 15 years ago who had refused to let her kids go through the standard childhood vaccination cycle. She knew perfectly well that if lots of people followed her example it would be dangerous. But she also knew from her work as a doctor that everybody else in her community vaccinated their kids, so she figured hers were safe.

She was, in economic terms, a free rider — taking advantage of a public good to which she didn't contribute. It was a terribly selfish choice, but it was also arguably a rational one. At least, it was back then.

Now, however, thanks to the rise of vaccine skepticism, the risk of encountering several of these childhood diseases in the U.S. has been growing, especially if you live in the hotbed of unconventional belief that is Southern California.

The article goes on in this vein and, of course, good points are made. Vaccines do seem to have an impact on reducing disease. But this drags us into a larger argument. There are charts and graphs on the Internet that seem to show that various diseases were almost eradicated BEFORE the specific vaccine came along. Measles is one such disease. Polio another.

Those who rebut these charges explain the numbers are manipulated and that vaccines have had a significant impact on disease reduction. It is difficult to tell from the numbers where the truth lies (at least not fully) but even granted the efficacy of vaccines, there is considerable controversy.

Additionally, from what we're able to tell, certain vaccines still aren't double-blind tested before being released to the public. And when it comes to the flu vaccine, the numbers are a good deal more definitive – and disastrously so. The flu vaccine often seems to cause more trouble than it's worth.

The influenza epidemic of the early 20th century is often cited as a justification for continuing the modern flu immunization campaign. But reports from that epoch seem to indicate that the vaccines were given to weakened veterans just emerging from the trenches of World War I. These vets then carried the disease across the world as they returned home.

Additionally, there are certain reports that seem to indicate the vaccine itself was old and damaged. A spoiled vaccine; weakened immune systems; a population that spread the disease around the world – this sort of paradigm likely will not take place again, hopefully not, anyway. Nonetheless, the "Spanish flu" remains the template justifying modern campaigns.

The article predictably makes another attempt to debunk the autism-vaccine link even though the eyewitness accounts we've read seem believable. Over and over you can find statements on the 'Net posted at relevant sites that explain how tots are subjected to vaccine cocktails and turn up mute the next day.

Granted, such narratives are apocryphal but the repetition is numbingly predictable. The medical "community" fights back against these tales by claiming that no matter the number, the relationship is coincidental.

Yet vaccines are injurious, as the article has the grace to admit. Vaccine courts in the US and now Italy have awarded damages to families whose children have been severely injured by vaccines – and some of these damages seem to have been awarded as regards autism itself.

There is also the issue of large populations such as the Amish who have a goodly number of unvaccinated – and yet, coincidentally no doubt, have little autism. Shouldn't the Amish be riddled with whooping cough, measles, etc? Perhaps the Amish are protected via the relative high rates of vaccination taking place around them. They are "free riders," in other words.

This is a term that the article uses, and it is one that the writer seeks to drag to the foreground to pursue his case that avoiding vaccines for oneself or one's kids is as irresponsible as drunken driving.

Yet we can remember a time when drunken driving was not prosecuted because the police didn't check for it. But then came breathalyzers, painted lines to walk across and even mandatory blood-taking. What was marginally a laudable activity – at least some could make that argument – has morphed in some cases (along with so many other do-gooding enterprises) into something a good deal more invasive.

The article concludes by stating that "Americans may have to get a lot more first-hand experience of measles epidemics before the vaccine skeptics (and their political enablers) catch a clue." But again, most of the examples the article cites are at least controversial.

Which brings us to our main point. Many anti-vaxxers are quite knowledgeable about vaccines and are well aware of various controversies. To present – as this article does – statements that have considerable controversy attached to them likely only inflames the debate.

After Thoughts

If the pro-vaccine community really wants to make a difference, it could start by telling the truth, the real historical truth – or at least more than one side of it. There are considerable questions about vaccines and their history not included in the mainstream narrative.

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