Editors’ Note: On November 4, 2018, we published an article entitled Fear Rules, Health Suffers, on the anti-vaccination movement (https://voxfairfax.com/2018/11/04/fear-rules-health-suffers/). It seems that we were not the only ones thinking about this. An excerpt from Popular Science, January 18, 2019, on this topic follows:
Every year, the World Health Organization puts out a list of the most pressing issues that face global health. They change a bit each time as WHO tries to emphasize where we need the most progress to be made, and the lists are always enlightening. One of this year’s top ten is the anti-vaccination movement. As quoted in Popular Science:
Vaccines prevent two to three million deaths every year, but they could prevent another 1.5 million if more people got their shots. These infections are stemming from the increasingly popular view that parents should get to choose which—if any—vaccines their children receive, and the dip in coverage is causing outbreaks.
“Some of these missed opportunities are simply the result of lack of access, but this year WHO identified hesitancy to get vaccines as a crucial factor in disease transmission. Even as we’ve succeeded in nearly wiping out polio—there were fewer than 30 cases last year—we’re also seeing a rise in measles, even in countries that were previously close to eliminating it. In 2016, Europe hit a record-low number of measles cases at 5,273, but the very next year they were back up to 21,315. Especially for highly infectious diseases like measles, vaccination rates above 90 percent are crucial to maintaining herd immunity.¹”
The right not to vaccinate has emerged in recent years as another cause in which conservatives can rail against big government. Why should the government dictate what I can and cannot do as it pertains to my child? Yet as we said in our November 2018 article,
If a parent, however misguided, does not want his/her child vaccinated, should they not have that right? No. Even aside from that child’s susceptibility to disease, not vaccinating children puts others in that community at risk. . . . What can be done? As with many questions that become political in our society, individual v. group rights come into play, along with the extent to which the law should be involved. What is undeniable, however, is that parents’ fears—perhaps superstitions—are causing more children to get sick, and not just their own.
¹Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination.