Food & Drink Magazine

No, Vaccinating Your Children (or Not) is Not a “personal Decision”

By Rachelmariestone @rachel_m_stone

Actually, it's the exact opposite of that.

Religion is sometimes said to make people abandon reason in order to maintain allegiance to their faith.

But I'd say that American politics are threatening to do the very same thing.

The President says "you should get your kids vaccinated" - mind you, he doesn't mandate a thing - and vaccination instantly becomes a question of partisanship?

Rand Paul and Chris Christie both stepped up quickly to bang the 'freedom' drum, as if President Obama and all the Democrats stood ready to herd little Republican children into government camps and vaccinate them against their parents' will.

Paul and Christie have each been speaking out of both sides of their respective mouths, trying to walk the impossible line between anti- and pro- on the vaccination question: "all I can say is we vaccinated ours" Christie said. "Parents need to have some measure of choice."

"I've heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines," said Paul. "I'm not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they're a good thing. But I think the parents should have some input."

"PROFOUND MENTAL DISORDERS" - but the vaccines that purportedly caused them are "a good thing"? I'm sorry, Senator, but you can't have it both ways.

It's dismaying that this has become a partisan issue, because, really, most American children - the vast majority - are fully vaccinated. I only hope that a bunch of politicians talking about vaccines doesn't sway parents from doing what medical and scientific consensus recommends out of misguided party fealty - or, worse, a twisted definition of "liberty."

It's all about freedom, Rand Paul tried to suggest.

It's my PERSONAL DECISION, say the dozens of anti-vaccination commenters who show up.

ONLY I CAN DECIDE WHAT'S RIGHT FOR ME AND MY FAMILY.

You know, there are a lot of points on which that is true. Only you can decide if it's right for you and your family to watch television, play the banjo, or eat a lot of Thai take-out. Only you can decide if it's right for you and your family to go barefoot, wear hemp, and celebrate the new moon. Only you can decide if it's right for you and your family to go to Disneyland or to Yosemite.

But here's what you don't - or shouldn't - get to decide:
  • you don't get to decide which unvaccinated baby gets to die of a vaccine-preventable disease because YOU didn't do your part in keeping the HUMAN FAMILY healthy
  • you don't get to decide which child with leukemia can't go into public spaces because you and your family have made those public spaces unsafe by giving vaccine-preventable diseases a human harbor
  • you don't get to decide which babies - including yours - will be born unable to hear or see because of vaccine-preventable congenital rubella

The frustrating thing is that people who are anti-vaccination don't believe any of the accepted facts about vaccination to begin with, so there is always another explanation for the deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases - it's the food, it's the air, it's ANYTHING EXCEPT MY "PERSONAL" decision not to vaccinate.

Communicable diseases is whisper the truth we would, in our very individualistic and American focus on the (nuclear) family, rather forget: we are all connected. By a sneeze, by a doorknob, by the very air we breathe, we are linked together, which is why vaccination couched as a "personal decision" is a complete and utter fiction; a dangerous lie.

Hell yes, vaccination is about freedom: freedom from once-eradicated diseases like measles. Freedom from congenital disabilities caused by rubella. Freedom from the fear of diseases that vaccines hold in check. Freedom to take babies too young to be vaccinated to church or to the grocery store. Freedom to go to the park even if you happen to be immune-compromised.

I would hope that aspiring to democracy would mean that we could all recognize that our obligations to others should go beyond the boundaries of our families. And I would hope that those who use their freedom to decide that vaccination is not for them and their families - despite no medical contraindications - would respect the freedom of other families, too.


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