February 26, 2015

This Is in Lieu of a Controversial Facebook Status about Vaccines

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how my dad called me a lemming.

(I'm not a lemming, for the record.)

I mentioned briefly that it was the result of a "healthy debate" over vaccinations... Which is true, but probably left some people wondering how in the world it came to name calling.

And honestly, it didn't start so brutally. In fact, it started out with just a simple question: "So Dad, what do you think about this whole measles thing?"

But what started out as a civilized discussion about the pros and cons of vaccinations eventually led to my dad calling me a liberal lemming and me yelling that I was not a lemming, and that my dad (who has been vaccinated himself) and his shocking stupidity is the only real evidence I've seen yet that vaccinations might mess with your brain.

By the time we finished, I was absolutely convinced that anyone who chooses to not vaccinate their children (without a legitimate medical reason) should not be allowed to take that child to school, to malls, to public pools, on airplanes, or basically anywhere other than a remote cave on the side of a mountain.

But the thing is, once I cooled down, I realized that most of my conviction was not so much due to me really believing what I was saying; mostly, it was just because I was so jazzed about being called a lemming.

In fact, when I really think about it, I'm not sure which side of the debate I'm even on.

As a biochemistry major, I have spent a good amount of time learning about our immune system and how vaccinations work. That, in addition to my own experience with the side effects of vaccinations (that being none), makes me feel pretty confidant that the risk of not getting vaccinated far outweighs the risk of doing so.

So unless the child cannot medically receive a vaccination for measles, I do think that everyone should definitely choose to vaccinate their children.

But that's where I get tripped up: I think that everyone should choose to vaccinate their kids. But should we force people (either directly or indirectly) to do so?

Today, every state has laws that require children to be vaccinated for certain diseases before they enter school. But 48 states allow religious exemptions and 20 allow personal belief exemptions. And ever since that 1998 study (since withdrawn and almost universally discredited) that suggested a link between the MMR vaccination and autism, more and more parents are choosing to personally believe that their children shouldn't be vaccinated.

And I don't need to tell you what's happening as a result.

But as strongly as I believe that everyone should get vaccinated, I'm not sure that we should have laws requiring us do something to our bodies, even if it's for our own good. Because being fit is also good, just like eating our vegetable and washing our face at night.

Mandating those sorts of things seem ridiculous but once you open the door to laws that dictate what we do to our bodies... well, it's not out of the question that one day we could get there.

The difference between washing our faces and getting vaccinated, however, is obvious: you're not risking anyone else's health by going to bed with your foundation still on. But by not being vaccinated, you're weakening our herd immunity and as a consequence, putting other people (like the immunocompromised, old people, and babies who have yet to be vaccinated) at risk. With every replication of the virus, there is also another chance that it could mutate into a vaccine-resistant strain... which would then put even those who have been vaccinated risk.

But is protecting our society worth living in one where the government can force you to do something inherently risky to yourself against your will, as small as that risk may be?

I just don't think I can say yes to that, even under the threat of being pegged a lemming.

This is obviously asking for a lot of heated opinions, but I'm really interested in hearing them. (But please, try keeping the name calling to a minimum.)