The Cultural Pushback
Other controversies surrounding mandated vaccinations involve the idea that if the government mandated certain vaccines, the American people’s freedom and individualism would be greatly compromised. Government officials and various health departments face a difficult challenge: respecting the rights and freedoms of individuals or protecting the public welfare (“Vanishing Vaccinations”). Some libertarians argue that required vaccines would be a violation of liberty because “agents of the state inject substances into someone’s body against his or her will” (Murphy). They insist that when someone is vaccinated the “primary beneficiary” is himself or herself; therefore it should be their right to choose. A policy that accepts voluntary vaccinations and grants exceptions to getting vaccinated causes more harm than requiring people to get a vaccination. Libertarians claim that it should be their right to choose whether or not to get vaccinated because they are the ones being put at harms risk, however “no individual has the right to expose other individuals to that risk” (Meyer). Once an individual’s actions are causing harm to others and not just themselves, it is no longer their right to choose, which is why these mandated vaccines are necessary for the welfare of the country as a whole. Another reason why vaccines should be required is that if enough people choose to not get vaccinated and the herd immunity rate falls low enough, we can expect nation wide pandemics (Meyer).
The last main controversy relating to the mandatory vaccinations is that they would conflict with individual’s religious and philosophical beliefs. Almost all of the states in the United States provide exceptions for those whose beliefs contradict with certain vaccinations. Specific vaccines may be developed using human tissue cells, which is an ethical dilemma to some (“Cultural Perspective”). The Catholic Church understands the importance of vaccines, however they desire for members of the church to receive an alternate to any vaccines that are produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses, if they are available. Other religious view the body as a sacred place and should not be contaminated with chemicals, blood, or tissues from certain animals. They would rather be healed by God or natural means rather than the vaccines. In recent years, exemptions from mandatory vaccines on the basis of religion have risen. As a result of the contested vaccines, infections spread quickly through small church communities because they are all unvaccinated (“Cultural Perspective”). While it is important to acknowledge those who wish to not vaccinate because of their religious beliefs, it is also pivotal that they understand the possible consequences of their decisions. There have been many cases of infectious diseases rapidly spreading through small, unvaccinated religious communities. In 1990 there was a significant measles outbreak involving Philadelphia schoolchildren. These children were members of churches that relied on prayer instead of vaccines to heal. In 1994 there was another measles outbreak in a different church community that also opposed vaccinations. The flare-up started with one sick teenager, and the illness spread and created significant outbreaks in both Illinois and Missouri. Lastly, and more recently, a measles outbreak occurred in another religious community in Indiana. Once again, the outbreak was caused by an unvaccinated individual who infected others in the community. Although it is hard for the government to force vaccinations upon those who refuse due to religion, health officials warn parents that their children, if unvaccinated, have a higher risk of catching an infection that is preventable by vaccines (“Cultural Perspective”).
Although there may be some exceptions, the consequences of people not being vaccinated are too serious to overlook or ignore. When people choose to not vaccinate, herd immunity is greatly impacted. Herd immunity is the concept that unvaccinated individuals, like the immunocompromised and very young babies, will still be protected against diseases if a significant majority of the population is vaccinated. This vaccination level is generally agreed to be at about 90 percent of the population to protect against outbreaks in the United States (Winsten). A result of the declining herd immunity, many vulnerable populations are prone to suffering harm or even death. In the future, the exemption process should be carefully modified to keep people from opting out of required vaccinations for the reason of convenience, but still allowing the exemptions for those individuals with serious convictions or medical reasoning (“Vanishing Vaccinations”).
Mandated vaccinations, while controversial, are a necessary tool in the prevention of deadly diseases and the safe guarding of public health in America. There are so many deadly diseases and infections in this world that have come and gone, only to come back again. Most of these diseases are easily spread, extremely fatal, and yet easily preventable with a simply, and safe vaccine. Despite a flurry of misinformation regarding vaccines and Autism, no credible connections have been made. Vaccines have been used safely for over a hundred years to stop diseases in their tracks, and we should not be less diligent or complacent just because of their success.
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