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Over the last few weeks, I’ve posted some new articles on vaccines. This has led to a little backlash from people who believe that in encouraging parents to do research and make their own choices, that I am dangerous. You see, some people still believe that vaccines are, or should be, fully mandatory.
By mandatory, they mean — you will get your child completely vaccinated on the CDC schedule, or face fines, being barred from public school, etc. There’s no room for opting out of some, or choosing to delay. You must follow exactly what the CDC says, including getting any and all new vaccines that are added to the schedule.
This is a completely ridiculous position.
The thing is, they keep harping on “herd immunity” and that your decision not to vaccinate could someday impact someone else. (If they didn’t use this angle, and admitted that your decision mostly impacts you/your family, then no one would be all that upset about what anyone else chose. They want peer pressure to try to force you into vaccination.) But they act like vaccination — or the lack thereof — is some sort of special, magical circumstance that will have a strong impact on others, while nothing else will.
This just isn’t true.
Vaccines will never be mandatory. Keep reading to find out why.
Does Vaccination Impact Others?
Both vaccinating and not vaccinating could impact those around you. The rotavirus vaccine, for example, often causes diarrhea. Rotavirus is live, so the diarrhea contains the virus, which can shed and make other children ill. This happens in daycare settings especially. One study recommends that immunocompromised individuals stay away from babies who recently received rotavirus for the first 14 days after vaccination. But how in the world is that possible? Recently vaccinated babies will be going to grocery stores, church, etc. because their parents weren’t told there was a potential risk, and individuals can’t ask about the vaccination status of those babies…. (And if you, the parent, changed their diaper and didn’t wash your hands properly, you could spread it by touching things.)
On the other hand, the story that we’re often told is that an unvaccinated child might contract measles, or pertussis, and then spread it to a baby too young to be vaccinated, or an immunocompromised individual and kill them. This is pure fiction. It could happen, but it hasn’t. There haven’t been any measles deaths in the U.S. in more than 10 years. (2014 data)
Realistically, the chances of someone coming across either a recently vaccinated individual, or an ill individual, and catching an illness about equally likely. Which is to say, both are highly unlikely. Both could happen.
Often times, when someone does get sick, we don’t actually know for sure where it came from. We don’t know who “spread” it or what their vaccination status was. It’s often really difficult to pin down, especially if there’s an actual epidemic with hundreds or thousands of cases. So it’s usually just speculation that it was caused by an unvaccinated person, or whatever the other explanation is.
Does It Even Matter?
Honestly, it doesn’t. It does not matter if you happen to spread an illness to another person. (Well — it does. But it doesn’t matter which illness it is. And you should stay home if you know you’re sick to try to minimize the chances of spreading it. But it can happen anyway, even if you take precautions, and in this case, when you did your best — it doesn’t matter.)
I’m not heartless. It’s not that I don’t care about others. (Although, yeah, I care about my own kids more. That’s called “being a parent.” Are you going to tell me that you love all kids as much as your own?) Anyway, let me explain.
There are a thousand ways, every day, that our behavior could affect others. Possibly in a really serious manner. I highly doubt that anyone thinks about these things before they leave their house in the morning, though. Let’s look at some of the ways.
Some people are highly sensitive to chemicals, and breathing them in even briefly could cause the to struggle with breathing, have an asthma attack, or worse. This includes chemicals like perfume or body spray, highly scented soaps or lotions, laundry detergent or fabric softener residue in clothing, or cigarette smoke. Many people wear perfumes or lotions without thinking twice how it could impact others around them — even if they will be in enclosed spaces. (It was actually when I got a headache from someone’s perfume in an enclosed space that I came up with the idea for this post.)
Some people are extremely allergic to foods — usually nuts. In these people, tiny traces of nuts can cause a full-blown anaphylactic reaction, which can cause death in as little as 20 minutes. If you eat nuts and don’t brush your teeth and breath on someone, that could be enough. If you don’t wash your hands after eating nuts and touch something that they touch, that could be enough. And if you bring nut-based snacks with you (think: granola bars with nuts, Larabars, trail mix, nut butters) you might as well bring poison if you’re around someone with serious nut allergies. And you don’t know which strangers might have a serious allergy.
Going out in public with nuts with you or on your hands is arguably one of the most dangerous things you could do, especially with serious nut allergies on the rise.
Sniffles and More
A lot of people say they don’t have time to stay home when they are sick, or that it’s “not that bad” and go out while coughing, congested, or with other symptoms (a handful even go out while they have a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea — and not just to the doctor’s office). This is very dangerous for people who are susceptible to illness, and yet people do it all the time.
There are lots more ways we can impact others. People have other serious allergies besides nuts. We could be distracted while driving — too tired, putting on make up, on a cell phone, drunk…. (Obviously the last is illegal, but the others usually aren’t. Cell phones are illegal in some areas, but that doesn’t stop people from using them.)
How many people think, “I really shouldn’t make this phone call while driving, because if I were to pay less attention to the road, I could impact my fellow drivers?” No, I’d venture to guess most don’t even consider the other drivers at all.
We Do What’s Right for Us
I’m not advocating being selfish.
The thing is, we all have so many things to think about when it comes to making decisions in our lives. “How it might impact others” can’t and shouldn’t be at the top of the list, unless what you’re doing is extremely likely to have a serious impact on others. i.e. you shouldn’t drive drunk, because the likelihood of you actually killing someone else is quite high, every single time you do it.
It would drive us crazy if we had to consider every little thing that might impact someone else before we left the house.
- Did I have peanut butter for breakfast?
- Did I wash sufficiently after?
- Do my clothes smell like fabric softener? Will I run into someone who is allergic to it?
- Is my lotion or perfume going to bother anyone?
- Should I use my cell phone while driving today, or will I get too distracted?
We just don’t think like that. We think about what is the best for us. Maybe peanut butter on toast is the healthiest quick breakfast we can manage. Maybe we have to call the dentist to reschedule the appointment before we get to work (although I don’t recommend you use your cell phone while driving if you can avoid it).
Vaccination is not a magically different situation.
Vaccination is a medical decision. It is one that comes with risks and benefits to the individual. These risks are up to and including death. We cannot mandate that individuals have to receive vaccinations for the benefit of others. Not when the risk, however small, includes death.
We can’t erase the impact we might have on others, for good or for bad. And we can’t single out any particular situation with a negligible risk — which is the case with vaccination vs. disease (no, you are not likely to die or be permanently disabled if you catch the measles) — and insist that other make decisions on our behalf. We can’t.
I’m sure some people will call me selfish and mean for this stance, but frankly I’m not going to change it. If you want to vaccinate or take whatever precautions you choose to protect yourself, I absolutely support that. I think you should do that, if that is what is right for you. But you don’t have the right to tell me I have to…for your benefit.
(And no. I don’t believe you should vaccinate to protect my children. I don’t care about “herd immunity” at all. I don’t need you to protect them; I can protect them myself, in the ways that I choose.)
I’m not sure why this is so hard for some to understand. We each do what is best for our own families. That is all we can do. And I promise that I’ll use any and all political connections I have (which are a lot at this point) to make sure that mandatory vaccination laws aren’t passed. Let me be clear: I will fight with everything I have for the right of families to make their own choices.
As for the actual risk-benefit of vaccines vs. disease, that’s not clear cut either (meaning it’s not obvious that vaccination is much safer and better than illness), but that’s beyond the scope of this post. Look for more information on that at the end of the week.
(Lest anyone try this out — this post wasn’t intended to be research-based or to convince anyone to vaccinate or not vaccinate. It’s my opinion about the laws surrounding mandatory vaccination. I have deliberately used very little evidence because I wasn’t addressing the issue of safety or efficacy. I will address that later in the week, or you can refer to my previous posts on vaccination. Please do not state that because this post contains no sources that I have done no research. I’m not even going to publish those comments or argue with you about it; it’s a waste of my time.)
Do Vaccination Research — Vaccines Will Never Be Mandatory
I encourage everyone to do their own research. Ask questions — literally, make a list of all the questions you have — and seek the answers. Do not stop until you are satisfied. Read through the CDC’s Pink Book. Talk to your doctor. Keep asking until you get answers.
If you decide to vaccinate, whether fully or partially, then we support you.
If you decide not to vaccinate, we support you. There are plenty of other ways to protect your children.
How do you feel about mandating vaccines?
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