Should government be telling parents not to vaccinate their children?
Should we consult the health ministry about what makes us good citizens?
Should the late-night television soap opera characters Victoria, the doctor, and Zach, the chauffeur, tell us what we should do?
No, these aren’t some classic sci-fi dystopia episode. These are real-life scenarios playing out now in this country, with the supreme court weighing whether to block a bill in the California state assembly that would require parents to prove that vaccines are responsible for their children’s mental and physical ailments before they can receive unlicensed medical treatment for non-vaccinated children.
Conservatives hate the Affordable Care Act for the same reason they hate the measles vaccine: because it prevents the government from telling you what to do. In the process, they’re helping make childhood vaccinations far less likely to happen.
California move could lead to fewer vaccines for children Read more
“Vaccination laws do harm,” argued the law’s author and the legislator who sponsored it, Travis Allen. “If passed, this bill would make health care available to those who need it while also sparing thousands of California children from unnecessary harm.”
Why? Because parents – of God, not of the state, apparently – are the experts in their children’s health. To keep their children safe from diseases like measles, they should vaccinate them.
It’s a charming thought, but a tragically wrong one.
In 2017, William Thompson testified before Congress about the catastrophic effect of “no jab, no pay” policies like the one in California and Texas that forbid parents to get vaccines without first signing off on the best opinions of people like Thompson and Zach – and many other infectious disease experts – and coming to an alternate conclusion about their child’s own health.
“I have no dispute that measles vaccination is 100% effective at preventing diseases of the worst kind,” Thompson told the House of Representatives. “But I have a huge disagreement with parents who believe that they do not have to vaccinate their children.”
Back in August, The New York Times in an editorial about the measles outbreak in California that began in October reported that the vast majority of the individuals hospitalized because of it were vaccinated, and it concluded: “There’s no doubt the science is on the side of vaccines. The real question is why so many parents believe that is not the case.”
If more and more parents don’t vaccinate their children, that one question becomes all the more urgent, and far more damaging to the health of those children. Vectors of the disease, including measles, are one of the most easily transmitted illnesses. A young child can easily catch the disease from a parent who is inadequately immunized.
Because it’s preventable, it does harm to vulnerable children like those with compromised immune systems. But a reasonable person could find the argument that it’s wrong to force you to vaccinate your child just as absurd as it seems to Thompson.
“Our focus needs to be on helping children who lack adequate health care, not on trying to impose an ideological stance on what the science tells us,” the mother of an autistic child wrote in a letter to the Times.
Many of those people are children like Dylan, a six-year-old whose autism diagnosis, which had been misdiagnosed many times before, had to be confronted by his mother, who is determined to avoid vaccination and hasn’t vaccinated herself. He has skin cancer because he doesn’t get enough vitamin D, but as long as he’s not an amputee, she wants him to receive all of the treatments he needs – including, at the age of three, a bone marrow transplant.
Even a talented surgeon like Dr Victoria King, who is writing a book about her experiences caring for children with medical problems, believes medical science is on her side – and she has no doubt about that.
“There has been a clear and consistent, well-supported link between vaccines and autism for some time now,” King told me. “But it is not a recommendation to immunize children – it is a recommendation to go to a physician and discuss your options, to talk about whether you’re comfortable and to get a full understanding of all the other options.”