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Sep 21 2010

Another example of feminist distrust of science: Vaccinations

Not all feminists distrust science, but it’s a common enough theme that it’s become a major pet peeve of mine. I ran into another example reading a blogger I usually love, Lena Chen (who’s also one of More Magazine’s up and coming young feminists). So Lena, I apologize ahead of time for making an example out of you, but this issue is very important.

One of Lena’s readers commented that vaccination seemed a lot like circumcision in that it lacked consent, and asked for Lena’s opinion. Here’s the bulk of her post:

I’m against mandatory vaccinations, but that doesn’t mean that I’m against vaccinations. [...] Invasive or not, vaccinations are something that individuals should be able to decide on themselves. Requiring them means that the government is essentially making health decisions for its citizens, without taking into account what they (or their parents) may want. (Most girls getting the vaccine are at an age when they can be informed about the benefits and risks of the procedure.) I got the HPV vaccine myself, and I’d recommend it to anyone, but I would never be able to justify mandating it, because I value personal freedom and think that choice should be left up to the patient.

And while, of course, it makes sense — in theory — to say that a modicum of personal freedom is a rather minor sacrifice for the “greater good”, it’s not like this line of reasoning hasn’t been abused in the past. Women — especially women of color and poor women — have more than just cause to be wary of a medical establishment that has historically profited from the coercion of marginalized groups. Forced sterilization of Black women threatened with the loss of welfare benefits, forced sterilization of individuals deemed “mentally defective”, electroshock aversion therapy to cure homosexuality … all of these things occurred in this country in the last fifty years. Frankly, I could give less of a damn about “public health” if it means that I get to live in a slightly more civilized society where no one is told what to do with their bodies anymore.

I commented:

Sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree. The way vaccinations work is through herd immunity. If the vast majority of people don’t get vaccinated, it puts those who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons (newborns, the elderly, immunocompromised individuals) at even higher risk. If the government didn’t require vaccinations, they would be effectively worthless.

Thanks to vaccination fear mongering by people like Jenny McCarthy and people who make it into a personal freedom issue instead of a scientific issue, we’ve seen a sharp rise in diseases that were thought to have been eradicated. See: Whooping cough in California.

This isn’t some nebulous “for the greater good” ideology like forced sterilizations. The mechanics of herd immunity are pretty cut and dry.

Lena replied:

I think that one can definitely make a case for vaccinations being a good thing that benefits society and people’s health, which is why I don’t see a lot of folks opting out of vaccinations just because they’re no longer mandatory. I do think that a lot of anti-vaccination advocates spout arguments that sound like conspiracy theories (I’ve even seen 9/11 comparisons made), but I have to agree that there’s no reason why the government should be able to make decisions about their citizens’ bodies. This isn’t even something I would necessarily call fear-mongering, since there’s a historical precedence for this concern.

Me:

Except that people do opt out of vaccinations when they’re not mandatory. That’s precisely the reason why we’ve seen a sudden whooping cough epidemic. This is especially true when you have people like Jenny McCarthy going around lying about how vaccines are dangerous and cause autism. Not to mention that she’s well publicized by people like Oprah.

To say the government should not be able to make decisions about their citizen’s bodies is nice in theory, but ludicrous in practice. Do we want disease epidemics spreading across the country? Do we want children dying of genetic disorders that could have easily been treated if tested at birth? Do we want food and drugs we put into our bodies to become dangerous because the government shouldn’t regulate what’s safe or not?

There’s a point where historical precedence becomes antiquated distrust for science in general. We shouldn’t forget the past, but we shouldn’t be paralyzed by it either.

This could be worse. She obviously accepts that vaccine works and rejects the completely anti-science loonies. But at the same time, this is a perfect example of when ideology, specifically liberal and feminist ideology, supplants science and reason. And I say that as a liberal feminist. People have abused science in the past, but that doesn’t mean science itself is forever evil. It’s something that needs to be closely scrutinized, not ignored.

From my personal experience, I have a hypotheses as to why you see this sort of distrust in the feminist community. So many vocal feminist aren’t scientists by training, but rather come from liberal arts educations like English, Political Science, Sociology, or Woman’s studies. And when you consider most liberal arts majors probably only had to take one or two introductory science classes in college, it’s understandable why they might not fully grasp how vaccinations are effective or why not all evolutionary psychology is bunk (though some is). If I tried to give my opinion about economics based on one class I took senior year of high school, I’m sure I’d be wrong about a lot of things.

Now, plenty of scientists are feminists – we sort of have to be in a traditionally male dominated field – but there’s usually not much overlap between our studies and our feminism. That is, a political scientist can use their expertise to focus on women’s issues, but a chemist can’t really weave feminist philosophy into her next paper. Since we have less overlap, we can get busy in our geeky scientific jobs and forget to be vocal about other issues we care about. That’s why I personally try to be an outspoken scientific voice for feminism whenever I can.

And that’s why I’m going to give a damn about about public health – because it means I get to live in a civilized society, instead of dying from preventable whooping cough, measles, rubella, or polio.

143 comments

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  1. 1
    TerranRich

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this issue. The whole “get the government out of our lives” shtick is actually detrimental to society in many ways, for the exact reasons that you pointed out in your final reply to Ms. Chen. There are some things that the government should enforce, and vaccinations are one of them.

  2. 2
    StoopidTallKid

    This is an iffy issue for me. If I don’t want to get vaccinated for some reason, I shouldn’t have to. But it does make things riskier for others. It’s one where I haven’t come to a decision, due to the gray areas involved. There might not be a solution, other than better education to allow people to make smarter decisions. (and for the record, I get any vaccine my doc recommends. I just don’t like the idea that I should have to).

  3. 3
    LS

    Vaccinations are an issue I really need to educate myself on. I’ve run into a lot of controversy about it recently, and I seem woefully un/misinformed. My go-to opinion on these issues is to side with science until I have reason to do otherwise, but as a practical matter, I haven’t gotten a vaccination against anything since I was young. It seems I may have unwittingly been doing something wrong all this time, despite any well reasoned arguments I may have.

  4. 4
    Amy Elizabeth Yergen

    I completely agree with you on this. I have never been able to understand how strongly anti-science many people, who claim to be educated, are. And it’s often huge in feminist circles. Which pisses me off cause I consider myself a feminist above all else. It’s probably more important to me than my atheism. And while I was an English major, and went into an MFA, I read science articles on a daily basis. Am I an actual scientist? No, but I believe in fucking reason and rationality.

  5. 5
    Winterdragon

    I agree with you

  6. 6
    Winterdragon

    Sorry, hit the “post” button too early… ^^’I agree with you, but I would like to comment on your last paragraph: that scientists who are feminists don’t (or couldn’t) let their ideology interfere with their research. This is not outright true. There are many ways in which feminism and antifeminism could interfere with scientific research, both indirectly and directly.Take Lucy, the supposed human ancestor, as an example. The scientists who found her bones concluded that she must have been female, on the grounds that she was small. Without actually having any others of her specimen to compare with! Lucy lived in a time when the “human” head wasn’t large enough to require broader hips for giving birth, so that wouldn’t have given any clues either. The scientists simply “concluded” that she was a female based on their (anti-feminist) cultural bias.I would recommend reading “Has Feminism Changed Science” by Londa Schiebinger. I think you would find it interesting. (In short, the conclusion is that “yes, feminism *has* changed science”. Sorry to spoil the ending, haha.)

  7. 7
    Rhacodactylus

    We all make concessions in terms of personal freedoms in order to live in a well structured society. Of course it costs us a modicum of independence, but in many cases it is worth it. If you want absolute freedom from government, go rent the road warrior.

  8. 8
    Mike Hare

    Jen, don’t you think our government is failing us because they are all to. willing to turn away from science in the name of religious or hysterical pressure. Science, pure science rarely fails us but our government is failing us more often than not.

  9. 9
    jimmyboy99

    That’s fine then: but for those who dont get vaccinated please don’t ever appear in public. As that isn’t going to work, the greater good of over-riding your libetarian sensitivities clearly prevails.If needs be we should tie you down and vaccinate you because a) we can’t be sure you will stay in your house unvaccinated (in fact – we can be certain that you won’t) and b) innocents will die because of your (collective) demand to exercise your ‘freedom’ from government control.I really don’t see this is very difficult: my desire to exercise freedom over my body in a very minor way (and that’s the point: vaccination is trivial in very nearly every instance) just does not compare with the need to provide herd immunity from deadly diseases.I am usually pretty strongly in favour of individual rights. I would never ban burquas for eg – an issue which generally gets me shouted out by liberals (I am hugely liberal by the way) and feminists. But where there is a quantifiable death toll from the exercise of a particular freedom, I switch sides.The government intervenes all the time for the greater good: we lock away criminals. We remove abused children from their parents. We stop people from building new bildings any old where. And unless you are libertarian (for which there really is not much to be said), that is pretty much accepted as reasonable.Well – I see this as a much smaller infringement of my individuality.

  10. 10
    Marion Delgado

    I went through this with Stephanie McMillian (who’s actually pretty good) when her viewpoint avatar Kranti was saying explicitly that science was … bad. I pointed out the obvious things, like science getting rid of the notion of witches that needed to be hunted, women dying in childbirth, etc. (okay, I said “you’ve joined the republican party? why the crusade against science? are you insane? )I think there’s a conflation of science with technology there.Also, science is not normative, per se, though it can affect how you express your values. By that same token, though, Lena Chen’s right if it’s purely a science issue. If you’re a hermit, you don’t have to be vaccinated. it’s usually “have to be vaccinated to …” which is a clue you’re going to be interacting with other people.

  11. 11
    Incidence

    Every time someone complains about liberty, personal rights or governmental intrusion when they complain about mandatory vaccinations, just replace “forcing medical decisions” with “preventing me from driving through a school while drunk” because it is the same damn thing.Society has decided that the lives and welfare of children is more important then your minor personal sacrifice.

  12. 12
    Troy Payne

    It seems to me like everyone should have the right to refuse care, regardless of what that care is. Exercising that right can come with consequences, e.g., inability to register for public school, ineligible for various aid programs, or ineligible for organized sports. But the right to refuse care should exist nonetheless. I just cannot wrap my head around allowing the government to mandate that *anything* be injected into my body against my will. If government can make that decision, where does its power stop?

  13. 13
    Nick Cowen

    If enough people care about maintaining herd immunity then they can pay others to have a vaccination and accept the (remarkably small) risks and inconvenience voluntarily. Public health is very important. But it is not as important as maintaining the moral inviolability of people’s bodies.

  14. 14
    Troy Payne

    It’s not the minor sacrifice. It’s the logical end that’s troublesome. Does privacy have any meaning when government can decide what gets injected into your body? I’m not sure that it does.I say that, by the way, as someone who is current on all vaccinations and who just got a flu shot. I’m not anti-vax. Nor am I anti-government – I work with and love police departments (I’m a policing researcher). But there are some decisions government just should not make, regardless of whether they’d do a better job at it than some citizens.

  15. 15
    Rollingforest

    I find it ironic that nowhere in the article or the comments is the word “abortion” mentioned (just by mentioning that word, the number of comments on this post will double. I’m sure Jen will enjoy the rousing debate). Because the abortion debate is where her insistence that “no one should be told what to do with their bodies” is coming from.It is also ironic that most people are saying that we should have a government mandate for vaccinations in order to “protect the innocent children” but when it comes to abortion, most feminists say that even if the fetus was a baby (and thus an innocent person) they have no obligation to care for it.http://spot.colorado.edu/~heat…I personally solve this dilemma by saying that once a fetus is conscious (in the second trimester), it is a baby and we do have the obligation to care for it by banning abortion from that point on in the same way we would require the general population to get vaccinations.

  16. 16
    Noelley B

    What about a parent’s right to refuse their child medical care? Several children have died in Oregon because their parents felt that modern medicine is a sin. How is this different from refusing to have your child immunized against life-threatening illnesses? It’s important to remember that when we’re arguing over immunization rights, we’re arguing over whether parents have the right to put their children and every child they interact with at deadly risk, not simply whether they personally want to get the flu this year.

  17. 17
    Fiona

    There should be a process to prove that you shouldn’t have to get a vaccine, e.g. medical certaificate to say it’ll do more harm than good to you personally.

  18. 18
    jimmyboy99

    Troy – you have missed the point I believe. There are some decisions that Government HAS to make, because citizens will not make them.It’s odd that in the US, even when you think you haven’t (!), you folks have been really infected with this mantra that you have to be scared of government; that governement is regularly bad; that personal privacy over-rides everything. This is called libertarianism – and it feels to those of us outside the US, like a mediaeval perspective.Your point about the logical end can go both ways. A refusal to vaccinate has it’s own (very nasty) logical end.I think the error in your argument is when you suggest that privacy has no meaning at all if the government can vaccinate. This isn’t sterlilisation we are talking about here. Privacy still has plenty of meaning in a vaccinating society. There is clearly a spectrum here, of privacy down to no privacy. Privacy isn’t digital: ie now they’ve vaccinated me I have no privacy, but before i had full privacy. This is a very minor infringement – and nothing like the imposition caused by anti-vaxers on their neighbours.I have a little boy who was immune-suppressed for a period that coincided with the big anti-vax hysteria in the UK. As a result he was occasionally exposed to kids with measles – a disease that would have killed him had he caught it. I note that 7 kids did die in Ireland from measles – measurably as a result of the anti-vaxers.I think it is entirely reasonable to say:1) the science is crystal clear: the measles jab is safe;2) herd immunity is proven beyond reasonable doubt for thee measels jab;3) everyone must therefore have it unless medically contraindicated.You might argue that my right to take my child outside does not trump your right to refuse to have the government push needles and chemicals into you.But then I think you would have no right to demand anything at all of society. Don’t ask me to pay taxes. Don’t ever ring the police. Etc.This is a small thing to ask in return for a huge benefit: if we have a “society”, we have to be able to insist on some basic norms – particularly in countries with well developed societies. And particularly on issues where there is international agreement.

  19. 19
    jimmyboy99

    I know no one with an immunocopromised child who believes in the moral inviolability of anyone’s body… Just saying…

  20. 20
    Jesse

    It’s MY BODY! If I contract an airborne strain of Ebola, then the government should keep it’s quarantine laws off of MY BODY, and let me go to the mall.

  21. 21
    Dustin K.

    From the way the columnist’s response to the original poster was framed, were they talking specifically about the HPV vaccine? If so, I know there is still some cloudiness on *that* one, as to when its effective to give it. I actually *forget* if we gave it to our daughter, but if we did, it was with the understanding that it is effectively useless given as an infant/toddler, and would definitely need a booster in about 10-12 years… Given that level of discourse, if they were discussing that *one* vaccination, I can see the other side. It was a pointless injection of dubious worth, that will have to be given again down the road. Should that be made mandatory by the government? Absolutely not.Now…all of the others? Jab the kids until they cry, but make sure they don’t die from preventable diseases. A child dying of whooping cough is as bad as a child being killed in a car crash because they weren’t wearing a safety-belt. Avoidable, and frankly, I think the parents should be considered guilty of neglect, if not outright child abuse. – Proud Dad to a happy, healthy, immunized 2 1/2 year old beautiful little girl, who’s going to inherit his love of all things nerdy (or turn out to be a total valley girl in rebellion…sigh…) ;)

  22. 22
    Thomas Everett Haynes

    Whooping cough, measles, rubella, or polio… you can’t just make up fake diseases! Lol, jkI worked in an Army immunization clinic for 5 months, giving 10,000 shots… so clearly I know everything about vaccinations… :-/ ( <- the problem)Personally I think we just need to teach skepticism in school, or at least how to look up accurate statistics. I bet that not one of these fear mongering shot haters has even checked the Center for Disease Control website…

  23. 23
    Livingonsteak

    I think I missed something. How does one person denying a vaccination put everyone else (who is vaccinated) at risk?They’d contract the disease but even if it was contagious the vaccinations of everyone else would protect them, right? I’m no chemist/biologist so if I’m way off the mark please correct me.Assuming I’m not way off the mark, personally I’d say it’s their body let them do what they want. Except that doesn’t take into account young children who can’t comprehend those diseases. But it seems foolish to make some vaccinations required and others voluntary, so just make all the critical ones required and if you really don’t want them, there’s always the hermit option.

  24. 24
    Thomas Everett Haynes

    You do not actually have the right to refuse care. As soon as you refuse life saving care you become temporary mentally disabled. Usually they just wait for you to go unconscious and then work on you anyway. And last time I checked the government can require some crazy things. Like drafting you, immunizing you, then ordering you on a charge to your death.

  25. 25
    Julie

    I don’t know where you’re getting that from, but I briefly worked in a retirement community where we had DNR (do not resuscitate) orders that we took very seriously. And in fact if one of our residents with a standing DNR collapsed and we performed emergency resuscitation and they lived, we were liable for a lawsuit.

  26. 26
    Aaron Harmon

    As she said in her comments, there are those who cannot be vaccinated even if they wanted to due to disease or age or other conditions. These are the ones at risk.My sister and niece and brother have AS, an autoimmune version of arthritis. They have to take immuno-suppressants and (as I am not sure of the details) may not be able to get all vaccinations. In principle, those who refuse vaccinations are putting my family at risk.The libertarian ideal that you own you body and you can do as you wish as long as you do not harm another is great. However, often this gets taken to the ridiculous extreme of harm only recognizing direct, intentional harm, and then only trying to punish after the fact, instead of trying to prevent the harm. I suppose I would be allowed to burn down my own house in a libertarian paradise without having to worry about the danger the flames created for everyone else as long as a stray spark did not land on your roof.

  27. 27
    Gus Snarp

    There is. You can get a note from your doctor to excuse you from vaccination. You can also be excused for religious reasons. I’m pretty sure that if you want to go to public school (and most private schools) you have to have either the religious or medical exemption. The problem is that there are doctors, like Jenny McCarthy’s pediatrician, who will automatically sign that note for all patients.

  28. 28
    Gus Snarp

    Also, like anything else, vaccination is not 100% effective. Your immune system may not fire up well enough and you may not be truly immune. Even with less than 100% effectiveness, a disease can be prevented, or even eradicated if a large enough portion of the population is vaccinated, because most of them will be immune and there will be fewer people transmitting the disease. The more immune people there are, the less chance that one of those few people who didn’t gain immunity (or small infants or immuno-compromised people) will actually meet someone carrying the disease. Sometimes the disease will not be able to infect enough people to continue to breed and survive, and then it is eradicated, like smallpox. Anyway, the more people that are vaccinated, the less chance of anyone who isn’t immune for any reason to get the disease. Herd immunity.

  29. 29
    Gus Snarp

    I have to admit, the notion of the government mandating that everyone get some drug (even a vaccine) injected into their body is a bit Orwellian. At the same time, I fully believe everyone should be vaccinated. I think it makes sense to mandate vaccination for children attending schools and daycares, as well as for medical professionals, teachers, and caregivers for the elderly, anyone in a group home, etc. The real key to getting everyone vaccinated is not legislation but education. How we overcome the vocal anti-vaccine noise is a difficult question, but folks will find a way to get exemptions, or will home school, or otherwise find a way to avoid vaccination no matter what, what we need is to convince people that it’s the right thing to do. And Lena Chen is right about one thing: there’s a lot of bad history out there that people see when they assess government statements. Honestly it would be tough for me, knowing what I know, to trust the government to vaccinated me if I were black. The Tuskegee experiment would be more than enough for me. But there’s an answer to that. Rich white people are all getting vaccinated from the same supply.

  30. 30
    Beyond Dimensions

    The problem with the US, and this is as a citizen of the country, is that we are still a young nation by other standards. You can see examples of it in our culture. And that means our government is still very, very young. Young people are not always afforded trust because they still make mistakes– they are learning. Same can be said of young governments.I believe in herd immunity. I understand I need to be vaccinated so that the elderly people I visit have less of a risk in contracting illness since they can’t be vaccinated themselves. But, as far as trusting my government to tell me which vaccines are safe? I’m not sure I can do that.For example, and this is a little off-topic, make-up (since it was a recent blog post here): Did you know there are only 11 banned chemicals in the US when it comes to the creating of make-up. Canada has over 500, and Europe when they did their last testing in 2003 added an additional 1,100 to their list of banned cosmetic chemicals.I think therein lies the problem. If I can’t trust the government to share with me information on what is safe to put on my face, how can I trust them to tell me what is safe to inject into my body?And this is more a rant on my skepticism of the US government’s ability to ensure safe vaccines than any debunking of the current vaccines on the market. I think all of us here would feel much better once the government stops being bought out by big corporations who want to pass things through the FDA with minimal to no testing just to get it on the market and turn a profit because fixing whatever issues are there would cost more than the lawsuits that could arise in the future due to negligence. When the government starts seeing its citizens are worth more than those who would profit from us, then I will start placing trust in them again.

  31. 31
    Beyond Dimensions

    Don’t forget money. The government likes money, too.

  32. 32
    Peter B

    Beyond Dimensions said: “…as far as trusting my government to tell me which vaccines are safe? I’m not sure I can do that. For example, and this is a little off-topic, make-up (since it was a recent blog post here): Did you know there are only 11 banned chemicals in the US when it comes to the creating of make-up. Canada has over 500, and Europe when they did their last testing in 2003 added an additional 1,100 to their list of banned cosmetic chemicals. I think therein lies the problem. If I can’t trust the government to share with me information on what is safe to put on my face, how can I trust them to tell me what is safe to inject into my body?”You don’t have to trust the US Government alone. Have a look at what other governments say – you obviously trust some of them enough to quote the number of make-up chemicals they ban.”When the government starts seeing its citizens are worth more than those who would profit from us, then I will start placing trust in them again.”It’s possible to look at government support of vaccinations from a purely cynical point of view – it’s cheaper to immunise the population against a disease than to have to deal with the disease being endemic in the community (hospitalisation, loss of productivity from invalid survivors and their full-time carers for examples).

  33. 33
    Angela

    “A child dying of whooping cough is as bad as a child being killed in a car crash because they weren’t wearing a safety-belt. Avoidable, and frankly, I think the parents should be considered guilty of neglect, if not outright child abuse. “Unfortunately, the children who are actually dying of whooping cough are not the same ones that have parents who refuse to vaccinate them. Children are vaccinated against pertussis at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 5-6 years. Pertussis is most deadly in infants under one year of age, and most of the ones who have died were under 6 months old, thus they had not yet received the full series of shots (with the first 3 being most important to initially establish immunity). They were relying on herd immunity to protect them, but were betrayed by unvaccinated older children and adults whose immunity had been lost. If you want to prosecute someone, it would have to be the person with whooping cough who infected the child, as the parents in most cases were getting their babies vaccinated, they were simply too young.Long story short: Get your Tdap shot! Also, I agree with you about prosecuting parents whose kids die of diseases that would have been vaccine preventable in most cases, it just doesn’t work with the way the pertussis epidemic is going in California.

  34. 34
    Peter B

    Should you have the right to refuse care if doing so endangers the lives of others?

  35. 35
    MarcusBailius

    Just a quick point here…(Sorry, I hit ‘like’ when I meant ‘reply’… No offence but it’s not what I meant…)Do you really mean you “believe” in herd immunity? To me, it’s a bit like “believing” that if I let go of this apple, it will fall. Herd immunity is an observation, you don’t need to “believe” in it.And don’t deride the FDA. I used to work in a company sterilising medical devices by irradiation; the FDA are really among the world’s toughest regulators. They take their job really seriously. (I am British! The FDA inspectors regularly come outside the USA to check what goes on, and if things don’t pass their inpections, importing is stopped.)It’s not an opaque government telling you without reason which vaccines are safe. Vaccines are tested, hard. We know that if large numbers of people stop taking vaccines, children start dying. Last I heard, nine children in California had died of whooping cough (Pertussis) in the current outbreak. That is tragic, and avoidable. The people not vaccinating their children, have to take responsibility for these deaths. Those who spread needless doubt, must take responsibility for increasing the numbers of children who die in an avoidable and unpleasant manner.Will you go up to the parents of such a child, and seriously tell them that you believe the vaccine isn’t safe? This is ludicrous. Scientists work all their lives to improve medicine and develop vaccines, saving countless lives (Smallpox is now completely eradicated, precisely because of vaccination), and now people are wondering if vaccination is safe enough?

  36. 36
    Metal_Warrior

    Sorry, Jen, this time I’m not able to agree with you. I am chemist, as you put it, and interested in evolutionary science. What you suggest is to risk that a whole species (e.g. mankind) is maybe poisoned (I know it’s the wrong word, but can’t find any better) by vaccines due to save individuals who wouldn’t stand a chance in an evolutionary context. I know this sounds heartless and needs explaining…Vaccines are (if they’re good) dead disease agents or significant proteins of them. Something our body takes for a pathogen and therefore tries to produce a protein which is able to deactivate or denaturate the pathogen. At least this is the intention, and so far it works for us. The problem is: Not every vaccine is just dead disease agents. There’s a whole lot of stuff in it too, like adjuvants. We don’t know how they’re working, or what they do exactly, nor do we know that it’s the only thing they do. As you know our body chemistry is way to complicated to just stuff it in one book. And there’s evidence (strong evidence) that no two individuals are the same in a chemical way. Just look at the intestinal flora and what happens to it if you just take antibiotics to cure flu. And we’re now slowly realizing that every sort of bacteria in there may be necessary for our immune system, we just don’t know how exactly, since every human has a different intestinal flora. Our body is more than “take NADP+, NADPH and ATP, a little protein, water and salt and it’s working”. We may know what a non-body-protein does to our immune system, but we don’t have the slightest clue what it does to everything else, not to mention that we don’t know if it does anything else either. So much for the biological/chemical aspect (everyone may now wake up again ;) )Evolution: Healthy and fit individuals survive, ill and feeble ones die. That’s what the general way is (yes, there are exceptions, I know). Mankind has come to a level where the fundamental rule is no longer at work – we’re our own gods, and we’re bad ones. Feeble and ill individuals survive, as long as they have the money, and are able to spread, healthy and fit individuals are wiped out, when they’re poor. OK, healthy and fit animals can die of hunger too, but that’s not “normal”, whether ill animals die – food or not. Now mankind: Of course not everyone should die if he’s a little ill, but what good is it to let nobody die, like the little fetuses – Wow, we were able to raise a fetus which was only X weeks old… What good is that, except for self-adulation? Nobody asks WHY the mothers body wasn’t able to cope with that fetus, or didn’t give it a chance. Maybe the body did know something… And even if there was no actual reason: is a fetus/chronically ill person worth more than a perfectly healthy child, which MAY suffer serious damage by a vaccine (for we don’t know it, and there are statistics which at least indicate something like that, talking especially about measles (which hold seldom problems for little children), mumps (dito) and rubella). On the other hand we’re flooded by allergies, and there’s also evidence that we should blame ourselves for it: Too much antibiotics, too few non-lethal diseases and too much sterilization. Fact is: We don’t know a thing about our whole body, at least not how it works (to stop it working is what we know perfectly well). We should be careful what we’re doing, because in the past we often were not very careful where we should have be. Thus is why I support freedom of the individual: Everyone may get his shot if he wants to, but no one is to be forced. Don’t forget: There’s a whole business behind a vaccine, and not every manager possesses as much foresight as Henry Ford.

  37. 37
    Casey

    Personally, I’m pretty glad the government mandates that food service workers have to wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Is that making a decision for the person, requiring them to do something with their body? Yep. Is it for the greater good? Yep.There are a lot of good reasons for the government to be involved.

  38. 38
    Peter B

    Aaron Harmon said: “I suppose I would be allowed to burn down my own house in a libertarian paradise without having to worry about the danger the flames created for everyone else as long as a stray spark did not land on your roof.”I think that “walking down the street with a lit torch” is a better comparison than “burning down your house” when it comes to vaccinations. An unvaccinated person has the potential to spread the disease they catch to others they come into contact with who aren’t immunised.

  39. 39
    MarcusBailius

    I do like this one!Thats exactly the point, isn’t it? Refusing vaccination for such potentially crippling or lethal diseases as measles, pertussis, and the rest, is tantamount to conpiracy to commit mass-manslughter, in British terms. Well, you can’t conspire to accidentally kill someone – but you can be held to be criminally negligent if someone dies as a result of your negligence in some situations. I think this is one such situation.A democratic state governs of course by consent, but it has to actually, you know, govern! The only other choice is anarchy.Anyone over there on that side of the Pond actually want the USA to be the World’s first Anarchist State?

  40. 40
    Peter B

    LS said: “It seems I may have unwittingly been doing something wrong all this time, despite any well reasoned arguments I may have.”Sadly, you’re right.For example, if you caught pertussis (whooping cough) as an adult, you’d be unlikely to recognise it for what it was. If you were then to come into close contact with a baby too young to be immunised against pertussis, you could easily pass that condition on to the baby. Roughly one person in 160 who gets pertussis dies from it.

  41. 41
    Peter B

    Metal Warrior said: “Don’t forget: There’s a whole business behind a vaccine…”And there’s much more money in treating sick people.

  42. 42
    C A V

    I think it is interesting that people have only touched on this briefly, but it’s definitely worth noting: getting a vaccine is in no way comparable to forced sterilization or electro-schock therapy for gays… I mean, let’s be honest: getting a little jab with a needle that will not really affect you (except maybe some local soreness, or on the RARE occasion a day or two “under the weather”) is NOT the same as being unable to procreate or being subjected to physically and mentally painful “treatment” for something that isn’t “curable”. Trying to act like they’re the same thing, or that the former will be a “slippery slope” to the latter, is frankly dishonest and misleading.

  43. 43
    Chris Merchant

    After I read the article I actually did a search for “abortion” on this page to see if anybody brought it up. So far only you have, which I feel may speak to a need by many to avoid comparing notes between these two arguments. Or maybe not ;-).

  44. 44
    Gus Snarp

    Sorry, that’s a load of BS. We’re not poisoning anyone, let alone a whole species. All these vaccines are rigorously tested and overwhelmingly safe.Taking antibiotics to cure flu is stupid, and no reputable doctor would prescribe it, because antibiotics don’t kill viruses. The bacteria that live on and in the human body are important, and antibiotics definitely affect them. So do other antibacterial agents, all of which are likely over-used. But when you get bacterial pneumonia, or strep, or something worse, then you take an antibiotic and you get better and what damage is done to your intestinal flora is very much secondary to that. You’ll grow new ones, you can consume some, and overall you’ll be just fine. That has exactly squat to do with vaccines. Vaccines enable your own body to develop an appropriate immune response to significant disease organisms. They have nothing to do with a healthy bacteriological community.There’s some pretty good research that suggests that lack of intestinal parasites has led to an increase in allergies. But you know what? I’ll take a few cases of allergies over tapeworm any day of the week. And it still has nothing to do with vaccines.It would be really great if you didn’t claim “I’m a chemist” in order to give undo weight to your university of Google notions on medicine. What exactly is your specialty, by the way? Are you actually doing active research into human biochemistry, or just mixing shampoo at Procter and Gamble?Did I go too far? I’ve been spending a lot of time on Pharyngula, so I may be coming off a bit nasty. Or maybe it’s that I have young children who I would really like not to get sick.

  45. 45
    Lissa

    The problem is that the people who don’t want to be vaccinated then risk passing contagious diseases on to other people who are not vaccinated, including people who plan to get vaccinations at a later date (like babies, immigrants etc). The vulnerable should always be protected. Otherwise all those anti-vax people would die of horrible and preventable diseases. Would that be such a terrible thing?Sometimes things, like laws and health food regulations, need to be mandatory. It’s a vaccination, not a euthanasia shot.

  46. 46
    Jeff

    The problem is that now that many disease have been eradicated, people who might normally be able to fight off the affliction have a lower chance of doing it. Take small pox. Or a better example is the measels (which, like whooping cough) is making a comeback in many places (in the US and around the world).You can say that vaccines have the potential to do x,y, and z bad things, but the fact is that morbitity rates have dropped significantly, and I mean SIGNIFICANTLY since the introduction of vaccines.Jen is definitely right here, vaccines should be mandatory for the good of all parties involved. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be huge amounts of oversight on the part of the distributing parties in an effort to avoid sitiations like the one going on in China. The thing is, the good from vaccines has been documented over many decades; the negative effects are speculative.If everyone doesn’t vaccinate, the chances of “obliterated” diseases coming back skyrockets.

  47. 47
    Chris Merchant

    If you believe that the government has a right to enact moral standards on the bodies of its citizens by enforcing forced vaccinations, then you’ve given up a common argument in favor of legalized abortion (“my body, my choice”).I say that forced vaccination is a moral standard because it essentially argues that my right to control my body is negated by a greater need to care for others, even strangers, in a society – a position that many people may not hold.The abortion debate then becomes merely one of ideological definitions – when is a fetus “human”? – and matters regarding a woman’s right to her own body become irrelevant in the face of a standardized moral code that may, I think, reasonably claim that a fetus has the right to life.This should at least be acknowledged.Of course abortion advocates still have room to defend themselves. Defenders can claim that a fetus does not have any human rights, and thus there’s nothing for the gov’t to protect. But the old “my body, my choice” argument has to go out the window if you want to make room for mandatory vaccinations.Of course I’m sincerely interested to hear from anyone who disagrees. This is a murky and very interesting issue.

  48. 48
    Gus Snarp

    Also, that evolution crap? This is not the world of eugenics. We don’t decide who lives and dies, we save everyone we can and hope for the best. The effects of evolution are long term, thousands of years at the least for humans. We aren’t making a weaker species, we’re surviving through different means and changing the game, but since we can’t begin to predict where that will lead, we save lives now and leave evolution to the neo sapiens 10,000 years from now. Odds are we will have selected out the people who are still stupid enough to smoke, the ones whose bodies can’t handle chemo, and those most susceptible to heart disease and cancer. Ultimately what we’ll get are people who can survive the things we can’t cure. The rest we can cure. Net gain. What effect some change in our environment will have we cannot predict, and we certainly can’t blame modern medicine for evolutionary changes that make us unable to cope with an unpredictable future environment. Evolution doesn’t work that fast, and for all we know the future environment may favor something we can’t begin to account for. Eugenics is stupid, even if it’s eugenics by negligence.

  49. 49
    Keely Chaisson

    If someone has already said this, I’m sorry for being repetitive… but vaccines aren’t 100% mandatory. You only are required to have them if you want to go to any public (or most private) schools. Also, it is absurdly easy to get out of vaccinating by getting a religious/ideological exemption. So this is far from a situation of the government forcibly injecting all of its citizens, which makes the conspiracy theory thing a little hard for me to swallow.

  50. 50
    Nominatissima

    I’m a feminist with autism. Therefore I support vaccination wholeheartedly because the alternative to supporting vaccination has been people demonizing me and saying I’m a “soul-less, empty husk”. The mainstream feminist movement has not done a good job in the past of accommodating and including women with disabilities, and this is one of many examples. Even ones that try to be good about it will advise people in threads about vaccination to “let everyone have their opinion”. I’m sorry, but that kind of thinking is basically asking me to participate in my own oppression. Something which I will never bow down to.

  51. 51
    Chris Merchant

    I should say that, in practice, I am pro-mandatory vaccinations and in favor of legalized abortions (with some limitations). My point is that this is not a cut-and-dry issue of pure fact – there is no “right” answer divorced of ideology. I struggle with both of these issues, as any thinking person should.

  52. 52
    Bggramngthvz

    The only issue I have with this is that the original post is about HPV, which is a sexually transmitted illness. This just isn’t the same thing as the flu, or measles, or whooping cough, which are spread by casual contact. Mandating a vaccine for something that is not going to spread like wildfire through a community without avoidable action, like unprotected sex, is ridiculous. I believe that the government SHOULD have the right to mandate vaccines for things like, for example, polio – which was racing through communities and killing and maiming children left and right – the herd SHOULD be protected. People who are healthy and able SHOULD get vaccines for things that the elderly, sick, and infants can not to protect those vulnerable groups. My 86 year old grandmother is unaffected by my getting or preventing HPV.As much of a problem as HPV might be, and as much as I believe that anything between two or more consenting adults goes, you don’t HAVE to have sex with lots of different partners, spreading disease as you go (possibly). You HAVE to breathe. Even when the flu is floating all around you. So drawing a parallel between mandating of HPV vaccine and other vaccines is really not appropriate.Also, I am living proof of the dangers of vaccines. I always got a flu shot, and then once years ago had an autoimmune reaction to one, and am now allergic to eggs. AND SO IS MY FATHER-IN-LAW. I think the risks of getting sick outweigh the dangers of the vaccine for the overwhelming majority of people and the overwhelming majority of illnesses. I don’t think this is true for HPV.

  53. 53
    Elerena

    … isn’t the title of the blog post a little misleading in this case? The person in question doesn’t seem to be *distrusting* science so much as placing it at a lower priority than her politics.

  54. 54
    Beyond Dimensions

    “Do you really mean you “believe” in herd immunity? To me, it’s a bit like “believing” that if I let go of this apple, it will fall. Herd immunity is an observation, you don’t need to “believe” in it. “That’s just you picking apart semantics and being an ass. You knew what I meant. It wasn’t me trying to bring the concepts of belief and faith into the conversation, it was me using the word to confirm that I acknowledge herd immunity as true.

  55. 55
    Annie

    Yes, and some pediatricians will drop your child as a patient if you refuse vaccines for personal reasons. I am not sure if they have any legal liability if that un-vaccinated patient gets a disease that could have otherwise been protected, by there is certainly a health liability to the rest of their patients.

  56. 56
    Georgia Sam

    Jen, I agree with you and would add one point: Have you ever seen video of a child with whooping cough? It is an unspeakably horrible way to die. If preventing deaths by that kind of torture doesn’t justify mandatory vaccinations, how do you justify ANY law intended to protect our safety? Opposition to mandatory vaccinations on personal liberty grounds makes no more sense than opposition to speed limits on the same basis.

  57. 57
    jimmyboy99

    Chris, the issue you raise is clearly a difficult one, and one that the US struggles with much more than we do in Europe. Having said that, I am not sure it is quite as you represent.Again the situation isn’t digital: ie my body – my choice. It is ‘on balance on this issue, my body – my choice’, or ‘on the balance of factors my body but not my choice’.So I see it like this: the infringement that comes through mandatory vaccination is miniscule. The infringement that comes from a woman being told she must carry to term when doesn’t want to is massive.For the large majority of the anti-choice lobby the situation is clear (and I was a strong proponent of this position for many many years): the baby is a baby with a soul and therefore killing it is murder. I have a little respecet for this position too. I think it’s bogus because I don’t believe in souls, and I think that modern biology makes a mockery of it all. But – OK. If you do believe in a soul the ‘murder’ position might – not definitely – but might be logical.But if I reject the soul thing, and – as I do – say that definition of a human is not clear cut, then suddenly abortion is no longer baby killing (which I really do not think it is). I am happy to live in a world that is complicated and raises some issues around – well – when is it OK to kill this thing? Fair question – and one that we have to be able to answer.But that doesn’t mean there’s a soul. And doesn’t make everything from two combined cells a human.Here’s another dilemma the other way though. So – unless you are a vegan or vegaterian (in which case take a bow: this is easily answered for you) presumably you are in theory OK that animals are killed for us to eat? Now…the time is coming (perhaps fairly soon) where we will be able to recreate our ancestors – including, potentially, all of those who make the link from us back to our common ancestor with a cow.Where do you draw the line about who you would or would not kill? It’s a gradient after all.Dawkins points out we are going to have to start thinking very carefully about how we treat chimps fairly soon. After all our common ancestor is just begging to be created – at which point our species-ist attitudes will face a very serious challenge!

  58. 58
    Beyond Dimensions

    “You don’t have to trust the US Government alone. Have a look at what other governments say – you obviously trust some of them enough to quote the number of make-up chemicals they ban.”Except if the US Government makes something mandatory for its citizens. Then you have to trust them, despite what other sources may say. I’m not attacking medical science, at all. Nor am I attacking individuals who likely take their jobs very seriously and truly do the best job they possibly can when it comes to creating and regulating things to make life as a whole among the populace better.I just think more can and should be done before some things hit the US market. And while vaccines may be tested hard, if other medical devices and drugs are not it only adds fuel to the fire for the vaccine nay-sayers. And I will say I realize that these instances occur in small numbers compared to the whole of scientific and medical discovery and research, but they are also what make the news. It’s easy to see where some people get the idea that all vaccines and medicine cannot be trusted. Again, not necessarily my personal view point. I’m just saying, as far as mandatory vaccinations go, it’s the word ‘mandatory’ that gets to me, especially when I’m having to rely on a government I don’t completely trust. And I understand why others have the same misgivings on the topic. Am I going to stop getting vaccinations or prevent my children (if I ever have any) from getting them? No. Am I going to ask for documents so I know what I’m getting myself into? Yes. (Also, sorry this was so long, it’s kind of in reply to both you and marcus, I just hit send too early on the other.)

  59. 59
    Sarah

    The suggestion that being in favor of mandatory vaccination is inconsistent with being pro-choice seems a little strained to me.Consider the cost to the individual:Getting a shot vs. nine months of pregnancyOr the result for society:Herd immunity vs. more unwanted babiesIf anyone really wants to argue that these are similar situations, I’d be curious to read it… but for now, it seems to me that the entire comparison hinges on the rhetoric of the “my body, my choice” line.

  60. 60
    jimmyboy99

    Sorry if I offend, but this is pure and utter drivel… Yes – we (ie the authorities) should be careful what vaccines we licence. But the evidence is materially better than overwhelming that widespread vaccination saves lives.Most of us believe that each life has value and is worth saving. Very few of us take a distorted Darwinist view whereby we believe that survival of the fittest is some kind of moral imperative. It is not. It is cruel and harsh. We will always fight it too (instinctively in fact: how’s that for irony?) – and that is one of the things that makes us more human (that’s a good thing).You say: “There’s a whole lot of stuff in it too, like adjuvants. We don’t know how they’re working, or what they do exactly, nor do we know that it’s the only thing they do.”But actually, at the level that matters, we do know. We know that millions survive where they would otherwise die from dreadful diseases. So actually – we know enough to know that vaccines are good.I wonder if you would take your Macchievellian view of survival if your own child were not one of Darwin’s survivors? My lovely wife has asthma – as disease that would otherwise have killed her. Obviously I could not countenance a view that said – we’d be better off without her. We wouldn’t! The world would be a worse place without her.As a human attempting to take a long term, ‘good of the species view’, is just cruel.

  61. 61
    Chris

    Jen: “personal freedom issue instead of a scientific issue”Your mistake is thinking that these are anything but orthogonal, dishonesting framing this as “science vs. freedom”. No, this is authoritarianism vs. freedom. It would be immoral for *you* to make decisions about what risks other people are allowed to take with their own bodies. For the few people who must rely on herd immunity, they must understand that interacting in public is a risk for themselves, what level of risk it is, and must make their decisions about their behavior accordingly.The solution isn’t to mandate but to educate.

  62. 62
    Annie

    Kind of off topic, but I really wish atheists would chill out about the word “believe”. It has multiple definitions, and not all are faith related. For example, one of the definitions is “to hold an opinion: think”, another is to “accept the word or evidence of”. These two examples have nothing to do with religion, and I wish we would stop giving believers a monopoly on this term. Even if you are an atheist scientist, you are going to believe in many things. Funny, one of the examples of word usage in the Merriam-Webster is, “The scientists believed the report.” Believe means so much more than just blind faith. Also, many of us “believe” (faith-based term) the information about vaccinations , as we are not all immunologists. We have an understanding of the scientific process, and so when we read an article in a peer-reviewed journal we can believe the information without having been in the lab during the multiple trials, without hovering over the statistician’s shoulder, and without reading the comments on the peer-reviewed drafts. Isn’t this a little faith (trust) in the methodology of science and the scientists themselves?I’m not trying to be nit-picky, but I have seen the attempted banning of the word believe by many commentators on this blog, and I think we should just trust that when someone uses that word, they are simply trying to share what they think.

  63. 63
    Lucas S

    Jen you are absolutely right. I’m fed up with the fallacious reasoning that mandating a vaccine necessarily leads to mandating all vaccines, or that a totalitarian eugenic state is inevitable. There’s no way to throw a yes or no blanket over all vaccines and there is no line to be drawn. 9 babies dying horrible deaths after 50 years of no cases means that people need to be protected from whooping cough.

  64. 64
    Gus Snarp

    So you’re placing the sole burden on individuals who must rely on herd immunity? So if you have a young infant you can’t have them with you when you pick up an older child from school or day care, even if you’re a single parent? So should you just leave the baby in the car, or at home alone? If you have a young infant should you and the infant just never leave the house? But more to the point, if you read a few of the comments above you’ll find the note that vaccination is not 100% effective. You don’t know if you’re relying on herd immunity. You may not in fact be immune to whooping cough, or polio, or measles, even though you’ve been vaccinated. There’s no way for people to judge their risk because there’s no way to know if herd immunity is protecting them or not.

  65. 65
    Angryninjamonkey

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. Besides, the needs of the one (health and freedom) are served by meeting the needs of the many. No Man is an Island. And finally, a rising tide lifts all boats. I am sick of Freedom. I would like to be free from Freedom. I think I will go live in a Socialist country where everyone’s health is everyone’s business and therefore have better medical outcomes. If you don’t have your health, Freedom is the least of your concerns. A necessitous man is not a free man and individual freedom is reliant on the freedom of others. Because of this, there is no such thing as Pure freedom which is what libertarians really want.

  66. 66
    jimmyboy99

    Amen, sister. Amen. :)

  67. 67
    Troy Payne

    Yep.

  68. 68
    Timsn274

    The fundamental problem with trying to debate these issues is that the average person does not know enough to make an informed decision, and that American society considers all opinions as equally valid. These fires are then fanned by the likes of Jennie McCarthy, in the case of this particular issue.Science isn’t ‘fair’. For my part, if you infected my 6-month-old with a disease that killed them because you refused to be vaccinated, your life would be forfeit.

  69. 69
    jen

    even though it’s been disproven, there are STILL moms that won’t vaccinate their kids because they believe in the autism risk. *headdesk*

  70. 70
    cat

    The HPV vaccine was mandated for immigrant women BEFORE it was widely recommended for US citizens. The issue at hand isn’t whether vaccines are a social good, but whether mandating them opens the door for coerced medical treatment (including of new and less tested drugs), which, given the situation of this particulary vaccine at least, it definitely did.

  71. 71
    Rollingforest

    Some people have started discussing it lower down. We’ll see if we can raise an interesting debate. ;)

  72. 72
    cat

    Why am I not overly surprised that the able bodied, fairly wealthy,cis woman is oblivious about the fact that coerced medical care is a huge ongoing problem, not a historical one. People are threatened with punishment fro refusal of medical care all of the time, ranging from people with depression being institutionalized, to trans people being denied medical transition if they are also gay or are nonbinary, to being charged with murder for refusing c-section. The medical community routinely polices people with disabilities and queer people with both coerced medication and threats of denial of treatment. Denying that very real fact is a sign of ignorant social privilege and is dismissive of the very real damage done by these things in society. Ask a trans person how contingent their legal and medical rights are on them submitting to treatments that sterilize them and you’ll find a completely different realm of experience. On order to change one’s name and legal documents, one has to follow a whatever binary based notions their therapist has and has to, in many states, have a surgery that leaves them sterile. These aren’t past problems for many of us, they are current ones. This isn’t a debate about whether vaccines are effective and social good (because your opponent admits they are), this is a debate about medical coercion, that’s what you aren’t paying adequate attention to.

  73. 73
    Rollingforest

    In regard to the soul: I sometimes ask pro-lifers to imagine that the soul enters the body at day 40 of a fetus’s life (as Muslims believe, but I don’t tell them that) and ask them would it be okay to abort before day 40? A look of confusion comes over their face and they mostly say “I don’t know” meaning that they’ve always looked at things assuming the soul was there from day one.Now as for mandating vaccinations vs. banning abortion: I agree that the costs (one needle prick vs. 9 months of pregnancy) are different, but I don’t think the result for society is (a few more children live vs. a few more children live). I think they can be compared morally. It doesn’t matter if the children are wanted or not. No one would argue that the Holocaust was okay because the Jews were unwanted. Like I said above, I support first trimester abortion because the fetus isn’t conscious and thus (by my definition) isn’t a person. But after the brain develops, I think it is conscious and thus a baby and thus should be protected from abortion. The whole issue of animal rights can be handled similarly. Animals that can feel emotional pain should be valued higher than animals that can only react to stimuli without feeling. (the one problem with this, however, is that many animals that we eat are more conscious and aware than a unborn baby. Does this mean that the animals should be more valuable than unborn children? I’ll leave that up for our society to ponder. )

  74. 74
    Livingonsteak

    I have a nice long reply to this, but I’m just gonna link to it:http://www.livingonsteak.com/tl;dr version is: I agree.

  75. 75
    Woozle Staddon

    I have a rather tricky counter-argument to offer. Please observe carefully where I am drawing the lines.I would argue that mandatory vaccination is bad in two ways (while agreeing that in general vaccination is a good thing, and that people need to understand how herd immunity is protecting non-vaccinated individuals and thus making it seem that vaccination isn’t necessary… and to hear more about the resurgence of all-but-extinct diseases, and the resulting deaths).1. (minor) It’s a violation of personal space, the right to rule one’s own body.This is a weak argument on the face of it — weigh that violation against possible deaths because not enough people got vaccinated, and it seems pretty selfish and petty — but many people who become anti-vaxers probably start with this idea. It needs to be addressed, not ignored.It’s also structurally similar to the pro-choice position (which I agree with) that a woman has the right to control her own body, and to favor her own well-being over that of the fetus (and, in the mind of an anti-choicer (which I am not), the lives of hundreds or thousands of fetuses) — so if you disagree with it, you need to show how it’s substantially different from that pro-choice argument (or else support pro-choice for other reasons). …which is just by way of making the point that while it’s weak, it’s not totally without merit.I would also argue that in the current political climate, any step towards surrendering personal freedom — no matter what greater good is being served — is also dangerous, and needs to be considered very carefully.2. (major) Fearmongers exploit argument #1, plus fear of government compulsion, plus ignorance of science, to turn people *firmly* against vaccines — *all* vaccines, even those for which there is no anecdotal mythos circulating. So even if it’s rationally weak, it still matters, and we ignore it at our peril.I think a solution lies in the following measures:A. A less punitive, less guilt-oriented approach to getting people to vaccinate. (You may not have experienced this, but when one has kids whom one chooses not to vaccinate for what seem like rational reasons, one finds that the immediate social pressure to vaccinate is seldom based on rational counter-arguments but on emotion: guilt and fear. I should hope it would be obvious why this is a problem, but I can elaborate if needed.)B. More transparency in the relevant science: easier public access to scientific data about specific vaccines, more willingness to admit when there have been mistakes which hurt people, more willingness from qualified professionals to discuss rationally-based objections in open forums, rather than just lumping together all objectors as insane anti-vaxers. (I’m not denying that insane anti-vaxers exist, I’m just saying that not all objections to vaccination are irrational.)C. Universal freaking healthcare coverage, thanks (I suspect you’ll agree with me on that wish, at least, if not the application to this issue): much of the fear over making the wrong decision and harming one’s child is because of the fear of not being able to get adequate medical care to properly handle that harm. Neither government health programs nor health insurance companies do a satisfactory job handling mental and neurlogical conditions, and the resulting gaps in coverage can cost families terribly.(For anecdotal but I think rather compelling evidence of this last item, ask me how much fun it’s been handling our profoundly autistic child for the last 8 years. I don’t know if vaccines had anything to do with his condition, although he was vaccinated — but the fear of that happening again is… something that needs to be handled carefully.)

  76. 76
    ty_ping

    I think Woozy covered what I’m going to say. I don’t think the freedom of bodily integrity is quite as minor as we make it out to be since it’s always a question of where do we draw the line.Certainly we could make conditions in order to encourage vaccinations (such as children not vaccinated are not permitted at public schools. Making sure vaccinations are free and the correct information about them is available and taught to young kids so that they can convince their parents to get vaccinated too, or even requiring vaccinations to travel outside of your state much like they’re required for international travel)I think that maybe whenever someone spreads falsehoods about something like vaccinations that the government should be able to take them to task (such as suing them for some kind of societal libel or something) so that it’s a lot harder for them to spread their lies. Or any news stations that carry the story are legally required to debunk what the anti-vaccination people say (or what anyone says) because they’re required to tell the truth as much as their able to.But I don’t think I’d ever want the government to mandate what it can or cannot place in my body (or subsequently force me to keep in my body) especially in the name of “The Greater Good”After all, blood bank needs blood so in the name of that same “Saving thousands of lives for the greater good” should the government be able to come and tap my vein twice a year?People deemed ‘mentally unfit’ would be better off “for the greater good” not being able to breed, should the government come in and remove their reproductive organs?People found pregnant “for the greater good of countless unborn people” would be better off giving birth, should a woman then be forced to keep all pregnancies and punished when she aborts/loses a fetus?No one is saying vaccinations are bad, and if they are, they’re idiots. What a lot of people are saying is that the Governments “greater good” which has been backed by sciences “greater good” has done a shit ton of fucked up stuff in the past and is still doing it today for that “greater good” and people don’t want that good forced on them no matter how good it may be.

  77. 77
    Barret Denman

    Liberties should always hold higher then even the sustainability of life in my thinking.Whats the point in life lived by another persons ideal? Yes there will be collateral damage that seems blatant I mean even having mass has consequences as you constantly cause forces which disrupt the universe around you in a myriad of ways. Being a meteor you would smash into something at SOME point, as a human we tend to eat meat and their are consequences their as well.We come up with all kind of justifications for every level of moral ruling we have but they are ultimately our own private rankings of importance. For another to have the right to want me vaccinated then another and even myself are allowed the right to want a different life. I get the idea that it only works en mass with maximized participation but I tell you flat out that any right is damnably hard to restore once its removed. We still haven’t unraveled half the damage of the Patriot Act. These kinds of thing remind us of the dangers involved.

  78. 78
    Lena Chen

    Hey Jen!No offense taken — I’m always up for a rousing debate. Just to clarify, btw: I don’t necessarily think that feminists distrust science so much as they do the medical establishment, which is a business (with a profit agenda) that has not always kept the best interests of women in mind. My original post was discussing HPV and while I can’t speak about all the OTHER diseases that we vaccinate against, HPV is far from fatal. Yes, it can cause cervical cancer, but this happens in a tiny fraction of cases and is very very preventable with regular pap smears.I think that we can definitely agree that vaccinations are better than no vaccinations. What the disagreement seems to be is whether they should be mandatory. While I understand that some people simply will not vaccinate their children unless forced to do so, I don’t think that means we ought to force them to do so. There are a variety of incentive systems that can be put into place in order to ENCOURAGE the practice without signing away patient rights. Let’s liken this to drug testing, for example. Generally speaking, I think it makes sense that certain occupations drug test (say, if you work for the army), but I would absolutely be against the government mandating that ALL employers drug test. It’s enough discouragement so that a lot of people won’t abuse drugs (at least not habitually) in fear of getting caught, but stops short of forcing everyone to conform to one behavior.

  79. 79
    Lazuli

    Well, this poor disabled trans woman agrees with Jen. How can you seriously attempt to link mandatory vaccination with institutionalized bigotry and discrimination, *especially* after you confess that vaccines are a social good? They’re a social good ONLY because they’re so often mandatory.

  80. 80
    Woozle Staddon

    Just a couple of quick notes…A correction: “No one is saying vaccinations are bad…” That’s the problem: people are… and unfortunately, certain elements of the media are giving them the authority to convince others.An addendum:Here in North Carolina, you can get out of vaccinating your kids for school if you state that your religion forbids it. In practice, you don’t actually have to have a religion, but you still have to come up with a statement that sounds suitably religioid. (I don’t know if anyone has ever been penalized for doing this — which doesn’t make it any easier; the resulting uncertainty about the risk only increases the fear surrounding this topic, and makes it more difficult to discuss openly.)If you think you have a rational reason for not wanting to vaccinate — e.g. evidence that a particular mandated vaccine is more likely to adversely affect your kids than it does others, however — that doesn’t count. You can’t be honest, have a discussion, and expect to end up with reasonable results; you have to lie.I find this state of affairs to be appalling and detestable. Not only does it encourage lying and religion (natural partners) over reason and truth, it also gives religion the enviable position of being an unanswerable justification for excusing oneself from rules everyone else has to follow — when it should be the very last thing you’d want to consider as justification. (Of course, NC still has a religious requirement for office, in pretty clear violation of the Constitution — and nobody [in power] bats an eye.)

  81. 81
    Woozle Staddon

    This raises another good point that science advocates (among which I count myself!) should remember: the medical establishment — especially the parts most heavily influenced by profit and politics — is not synonymous with science.Anti-vaxers may tell exaggerated stories about evil pharma corporations killing people for fun and profit, but just because those stories are exaggerated or even completely made up doesn’t mean that the opposite is true. Watched any of Lawrence Lessig “political influence” lectures, for instance? He often uses well-documented pharma industry shenanigans as an example of the “corrupting” influence of money.

  82. 82
    Lena Chen

    Good! I think that science can do a ton of good in terms of gender equality and is perfectly aligned with feminism. I’m just wary of how medicine has pathologized sexuality, turned childbirth into an impersonal process, and stigmatized a host of behaviors as “deviant”. That’s why my alarm bells go off whenever I hear the word “mandatory”. Opposing that doesn’t mean that I don’t value human life (I’ve opted for the HPV vaccine without being under any obligation) and in my opinion, there are ways to get people to choose vaccination without forcing them to do it.

  83. 83
    Annie

    One problem I have with the HPV vaccine is that it is being targeted as a vaccine that young women must have. And yet, young men (actually all men in general) can be carriers of HPV, but since they will not suffer any ill effects from this, they are not encouraged to be vaccinated. Why don’t we encourage ALL of our young people to get this vaccine… both women and men. Men may not suffer any ill effects, but they can be carriers and spread it from partner to partner. If I had a boy, I would have him get this vaccine.

  84. 84
    Lena Chen

    Because institutionalized bigotry and discrimination has occurred before as a result of alliances between government and the medical industry … and mandatory vaccinations would also be the result of such an alliance. I don’t think setting a precedent for the latter is a good idea precisely because the U.S. has shown that it’s already capable of doing the former.

  85. 85
    Lena Chen

    Yeah, that’s a WHOLE other issue altogether, especially when you take into account the attempt by the Bush admin to make it mandatory for all female immigrants. And part of this reasoning is undoubtedly the idea that only women get cervical cancer so it’s a woman’s problem, which totally discounts the fact that I’m pretty sure MEN don’t want their sisters, moms, friends, and partners dying and would be more than willing to prevent it if encouraged…

  86. 86
    ckitching

    You’re making the mistake of assuming that people will always act in accordance to their legitimate interests. There are plenty of people who would absolutely refuse vaccination regardless of what you might offer them to compensate. Take Christian Scientists, for example, who sincerely believe that disease and illness are not caused by pathogens, but are spiritual in origin, and can only be fought with sincere prayer. Take the Imams who have declared certain vaccines to be genocidal weapons to sterilize Muslim nations. Take the nuts who rave about chemtrails, flouride, and other paranoid conspiracies.See: Mary Mallon, a woman who was infected with typhoid fever and remained a carrier, and infected a large number of people because she refused to believe that she was responsible for the sickness that seemed to follow her everywhere she went. She eventually had to be forcefully quarantined to prevent further infections.Or take smallpox. In 1967, this disease killed 2 million people. In 1980 and every year since, it has killed none. This terrible disease has been completely eradicated (except in some secure laboratories), and it wasn’t done by getting people to all voluntarily vaccinate themselves at their own costs. It involved compulsory vaccinations, strictly enforced quarantines, and other personal rights violations.How many people have to die trivially preventable deaths before we consider that people don’t have the right to be walking biological weapons factories.

  87. 87
    Foo

    It isn’t “govt. get out of our lives” its “govt. do your damn job”The Government’s is simple: protect the liberties of the people. One of those liberties is the ability to be unhealthy, to eat unhealthy things, and to opt out of vaccines. Does that fact that we live in a free country mean that people will make stupid decisions? yesDoes it mean that they may actually cause discomfort to other people? you betcha.But the question is: how does mandating vaccines help the liberty of the person upon who it is mandated.

  88. 88
    LS

    I’m really surprised that this isn’t something I was more aware of. My new medical insurance plan will be starting in a few months, and I’ll be sure to look into what gaps exist in my inoculation history.

  89. 89
    Bruce Coppola

    Clicked “liked” on Foo’s post by mistake. “Discomfort to others”? Give me a fucking break. One’s child dying of a preventable disease is hardly “discomfort”.And only in your imaginary Republic of Yourselfia is the sole job of the government to “protect the liberties of the people”. Here in the actual USA on planet Earth, “promoting the general welfare” is one of government’s duties under the Constitution (remember that?). By centuries of social & legal precedent here and elsewhere public health falls under that rubric.

  90. 90
    Foo

    First off – I am not referring to the constitution when I refer to the job of the government.I am referring to a general philosophical view that the government’s job is solely to protect the liberties of its people. Here in the USA we protect the liberty of the people by promoting good health practices. That means that we provide access to information and ensure that government programs support good health. This does not mean it can force people to do whats best for themselves.Despite the “legal precedent” someone can not morally be forbidden by the government to stop harming himself. Typically, the way most legal systems I’ve seen work, the child is considered an extension of the parent until s/he reaches the age of majority and is then allowed to make his/her own decisions.Unless you could site evidence (like Jen did) that allowing people to not take vaccines causes specific hard to other you have no moral basis for it.this is a point I’ve been going back and forth on: but there has to be some threshold for harm to others. You can’t just say “well, if I do this, somebody, one day, might, maybe, do something that could be attributed to this action”. You have to show that this action specifically will be very likely to cause harm to someone else.

  91. 91
    LauraHopalong

    I always found the governments job is to provide protection for people, not their liberties.

  92. 92
    Foo

    Wrong.Period.1) What does it mean to protect the people?2) If it means ‘physical protection’ the case the government could morally put everyone in solitary confinement and leave them their without any due cause whatsoever.

  93. 93
    Sarah

    “No one would argue that the Holocaust was okay because the Jews were unwanted.”I sure hope you were just trying to score a cheap rhetorical point with this line, and that you’re not really arguing that the Jews who died in the Holocaust were unwanted.But beyond that, I have to disagree with your assertion that the end results are equivalent in both cases. You can go observe the results of mandatory vaccines versus restricted access to abortion, and the consequences for society are most certainly *not* the same.

  94. 94
    Rollingforest

    No, I’m not taking cheap shots. I’m saying that the Jews were unwanted by the Germans. There were plenty of other people who wanted them. Similarly, there are plenty of infertile families that would be willing to wait for years to adopt a child who otherwise would have been aborted. Adoption agencies are always flooded with requests for babies to love, but there are never enough, so I don’t think you can say that the babies were unwanted. As hard as it is for many to believe, I do not mean to demean women who seek abortions by mentioning the Nazis. Rather, I am suggesting that most Germans, including most concentration camp guards, never actually saw the Jews being gassed and thus they were able to rationalize it by thinking that these people who they considered undesirable were just gone. If these guards had lived at any other point in history, they would likely have been perfectly friendly people. It was the ideology that corrupted them. It’s time to stop thinking that only evil people can do evil things. No, the effects of requiring vaccinations and banning late term abortion are not EXACTLY the same. But in regard to saving the lives of children, which I think is the most important characteristic, they are identical.

  95. 95
    jimmyboy99

    Couldn’t disagree more. What a govt ‘should do’ isn’t some internationally agreed set of principles when it comes down to it: it is what we, the people, define it should be. If we, the people, (and yes I know, even as a Brit, what bad company I’m in right now with that phrase) agree that libertarian principles are more important than societal ones – when demonstrably people will die as a result, we are a pretty poor kind of people.Again: if it were your kid who’s health/life were threatened by the inaction of a bunch lof libertarian fuckwits, potentially you’d have a different view. Especially as the actions required to prevent your kid dying are a) safe; b) nearly zero effort and c) are rotuine across the develped world.Libertarians: I can only disagree with you. You claim rights which I do not recognise. In the wider interests of society I claim (minimalistic) rights over your body.

  96. 96
    jimmyboy99

    Your world is a horrible one. Can I propose you pop over to the US West Coast and go and explain your libertarian views to some of the parents grieving over the unnecessary deaths of their children?This isn’t just some academic net debate: a whole bunch of peole are dying unnecessarily around the world as a direct result of the implementation of your views.And that’s just a ‘yep’ answer?

  97. 97
    jimmyboy99

    How about a position that says: lets not do the bad things; but yes – lets do the good things? Let’s not be bigoted and discriminatory; and yes let’s protect the lives of the wider population by having near mandatory vaccination.What do you think?There are other alternatives by the way. We have vaccines free at the point of delivery. The links between government and the pharmas here have typically been fairly strained. I see no such issues on our side of the water.I see a massive issue with letting the ignorance of the general population run wild: we know definitively that people will die unnecessarily from that policy.

  98. 98
    jimmyboy99

    Lena – people all over the world would love to hear what ways exist to get to herd immunity levels without it being mandatory. Really.I’ve seen herd immunity disappear in the UK as a result of the anti-vaxer nonsense.I’ve seen, personally, herd immunity created in West and Central African refugee camps where they line the population up and jab them all. (When we whine about our human rights being infringed, a quick trip over to one such camp might help with perspective by the way, libertarians).And I saw the utter tragedy of the 20 year WHO Polio eradication programme destroyed in Northern Nigeria when the Imams decided that the vaccine was actually a Western plot to sterilise the population. It was the last remaining place – in the whole world – with endemic Polio. Unfortunately, the local strain then turned up in Mecca and then through the far east.Start again time for WHO I understand. Google for images of Polio if you want to know what that means.I am with Sam Harris: we no longer have the luxury of tolerating stupidity. The result of doing so is too catastrophic.(I realise I’ve ranted at you Lena, and much of what I’ve said isn’t really valid response to you: I’ve just had something of a mental breakdown here reading numerous arguments about protecting personal rights – utterly ignoring the demonstrated fact that this will cause intolerable suffering and the deaths of others in our societies – totally unnecessarily).

  99. 99
    Guest

    It’s an expensive vaccine, and has only very recently been licensed at all for use in men. There’s no conspiracy here, merely a somewhat-cynical medical approach to maximise QALYs saved per dollar spent.It’s sad that vaccines are so expensive, and that financial costs often outweigh medical benefits, but it’s actually, from a state’s point of view, a pretty good answer to the question “why don’t we vaccinate twice as many children”.Vaccines are always insufficient: there aren’t enough doses, they don’t protect against all strains (only HPV-16 and HPV-18 are covered by the current products), and they certainly don’t cover all diseases. Maybe it’s best to think of medical research as a fire department in a city that’s on fire everywhere – we can’t put out all fires, and sometimes the best use of resources is to give up on one fire and focus on a malaria vaccine instead.(What really sucks is that the HPV vaccine isn’t that expensive: that’s just how patents work. Maybe the UN should have bought the patent and made it freely available, but I understand they don’t have cash for things like that).

  100. 100
    jimmyboy99

    “Wrong.Period.”Being dogmatic doesn’t make you right. Having a good argument makes you right.”I am referring to a general philosophical view that the government’s job is solely to protect the liberties of its people. “And then you interpret that into Libertarianism. There are appalling end consequences to your argument. Should I be free to get drunk and mow down pedestrians in my car (it’s my body after all) – because in your world, I then have to face the consequences? No! Absolutely no. We make it illegal and we try as hard as we can to prevent people doing harm, with force if necessary. The cops don’t follow you when you are drunk in your car and wait for you to commit an offence. They stop you, arrest you, and physcially restrain you in advance.Society does exist. Increasingly so as we get more and more people on this planet. To recognise no mandatory responsibilities to our neighbours is just silly. Or to exclude any duty to our neighbours health and welfare because it might mildly inconvenience me?The really irritating thing is: it is the liberals who protect you on this issue. If we allowed your world view to exist, potentially you’d die of some nasty disease. Or someone close to you. But no: we push for more complicated, societal based philosophies – that protect liberal and selfish numpty alike.Again, how about just popping over to discuss your selfish philosophy with the parents of the kids who just died of Whooping Cough.

  101. 101
    Ivo

    “I am with Sam Harris: we no longer have the luxury of tolerating stupidity. The result of doing so is too catastrophic.”This sums it up for me too. I understand the concerns about bodily integrity, freedom of choice and so on, but really guys, this one issue is so clear cut, with advantages FAR outweighing the actual abuses of said liberties (as even the opponents of mandatory vaccination here admit) that any opposition “by principle” is clearly out of proportion, and the slippery slope arguments border on the dishonest. Simply: to allow innocents to die because of the uninformed stupidity of a portion of the population is intolerable — as anybody understands if the talk were about the “liberty” of driving while drunk or the “choice” of having an open fire barbecue in one’s own woods during a severe drought. Or not to bring your dying child to the doctor because Jesus told you that prayer is enough.These people go to prison for a good reason. McCarthyist anti-vaxers would as well, if their guild were not by necessity as collective as it is.

  102. 102
    Foo

    Being dogmatic doesn’t make you right. Having a good argument makes you right.Which I then present after that statement. Taking the rhetorical claim as my argument is silly.And then you interpret that into Libertarianism.It is the rational outcome. There are appalling end consequences to your argument. Should I be free to get drunk and mow down pedestrians in my car (it’s my body after all) -No. Because you are harming others with your actions. because in your world, I then have to face the consequences? No! Absolutely no. We make it illegal and we try as hard as we can to prevent people doing harm, with force if necessary. The cops don’t follow you when you are drunk in your car and wait for you to commit an offence. They stop you, arrest you, and physcially restrain you in advance.This is a straw man argument. What you are talking about something called “reckless endangerment”. Where it is very likely that your actions will cause harm to others the cops have a have right to stop you. I never said they didn’t.Society does exist. Increasingly so as we get more and more people on this planet. To recognise no mandatory responsibilities to our neighbours is just silly. Or to exclude any duty to our neighbours health and welfare because it might mildly inconvenience me?Society is made of people. Our neighbors have only one specific duty that I could think of: do not cause harm to others.The really irritating thing is: it is the liberals who protect you on this issue. If we allowed your world view to exist, potentially you’d die of some nasty disease. I might die of a nasty disease. And I might be the first to climb a mountain. By letting all people do what they want provided they don’t harm others you are opening up many more possibilities. Some good. Some bad.Or someone close to you. But no: we push for more complicated, societal based philosophies – that protect liberal and selfish numpty alike.Your anti-freedom views don’t protect anyone.Again, how about just popping over to discuss your selfish philosophy with the parents of the kids who just died of Whooping Cough.I will not address this non-rational argument.

  103. 103
    Foo

    *ignoring emotional arguments above*In the wider interests of society I claim (minimalistic) rights over your body. So do I: the moment your actions harm other people you lose that right.The best argument to make is that allowing people to not take vaccines stops herd immunity which causes harm to others.It is one I definitely hear. As I mentioned above – I’m going back and forth about my threshold argument.The biggest problems I have with Jen’s post and with the other commenters is that a) Jen makes the argument into feminism vs science when it has nothing to do with eitherb) The arguments of most the commenters are either emotional or based on “its good for you so we could mandate it”.Also – your post makes it clear that your view of libertarianism is a Straw Man and I would go ahead and read up a bit more on it. Also – I do not consider myself a libertarian for a variety of reasons (mostly cause I don’t agree with everything they do)

  104. 104
    A-M

    I get so mad at people who value their own personal freedom to catch measles above the right of others to not be infected by them! Vaccinations as a science require most people to have them in order to be effective. It has nothing to do with the government controlling your body, and everything to do with you being a selfish pr*ck! My husband has not had most of his vaccinations because he is physically unable to do so. Since most people in the UK do receive theirs, I am not too worried. But if lots of people started to opt out, he would be more at risk, due to no fault of his own. When you live within a society, you can’t just be looking out for number one all the time. GAH!

  105. 105
    A-M

    If you want the right to refuse care, but accept facing the legally binding consquences, then I think the consequences of refusing vaccination should be no contact with other human beings. Makes having a vaccination not look so extreme an infringement now, doesn’t it?

  106. 106
    jimmyboy99

    I have to call Poe here. You can’t be for real. There are no people as illogical and selfish as this outside the Tea Party, and they aren’t reading Jen’s blog, surely?

  107. 107
    danielm

    that sort of ultra-liberal (and my word do I hate using “liberal” like that) ideal should mean that people who a) do not vaccinate themselves and b) do not vaccinate their children should be personally held responsible when entirely preventable diseases (i.e. whooping cough) kills.And it does kill.That sort of liberal power would mean actually fucking owning up to your own goddamn mistakes – you caused the death of a child because you were a loony antivaxer? fine – but you’re going to prison for murder.

  108. 108
    jimmyboy99

    “Also – your post makes it clear that your view of libertarianism is a Straw Man and I would go ahead and read up a bit more on it. Also – I do not consider myself a libertarian for a variety of reasons (mostly cause I don’t agree with everything they do)”You can keep your patronising BS and fuck off. Try some decent arguments (we’ve been here before). Show me the straw man, Foo. I wonder if you just learnt the expression and don’t know what it means?I say: arguments that place individual above society – particularly as strongly as you have put them – are Libertarian. You can disagree. You can be patronising. But it makes it easy to ridicule you when you take that line. Put up your consistent, argued position!And there is nothing wrong with emotional arguments per se: we are emotional beings after all. Do you think I should ignore the personal experience I have of this issue for example? Should it not inform me at all? It would be ridiculous to suggest so. I make emotive arguments because it is an emotive issue for me. A personal one. That does not in itself denigrate the points I am making.Back to what I’ve mentioned previously – arguments are best judged on whether they are good or bad arguments.I think yours are dreadful by the way. Actually: I am now struggling a bit to know what it is you are arguing.You may not consider yourself a libertarian. I do – on the arguments you’ve put forward. I suspect others here would too. I am certain the Libertarians I know would have you as one of theirs.”So do I: the moment your actions harm other people you lose that right”And you cannot see that refusing vaccination harms other people? Is that because you disbelieve the evidence? Or…I’m struggling here. Or perhaps you differentiate semantically between action and inaction? Or??

  109. 109
    A-M

    The British *doctor* (I forget his name) behind the original MMR autism scare in the UK has been struck off the medical register, yet there are still people (not just mums, surely dads take an interest in their child’s health too Jen :P) who believe a link exists. When we dealing with this kind of blind stubborn-mindedness, I really don’t know where to begin with my argument.

  110. 110
    MarcusBailius

    Not really. Writing it the way you did, makes it possible in a relativist way to argue that someone else doesn’t “believe” in it. And I would make the same point to Annie, immediately following. The point is, the moment you end up discussing whether person (or scientist) A believes in this, then person B can say, irrespective of the evidence, that they don’t and the argument becomes difficult because you’re arguing over opinions!

  111. 111
    MarcusBailius

    …”measles (which hold seldom problems for little children)”World Health Organisation: Measles killed 164000 in 2008, mostly children under the age of 5. This is why you vaccinate, people.And by the way, don’t take antibiotics for a purely viral infection such as influenza. Take the by all means if you have a consequent chest infection, for example, but antibiotics do nothing against viruses.

  112. 112
    Woozle Staddon

    If the advantages so clearly outweigh the disadvantages, then I think we need to do an accounting.

  113. 113
    Woozle Staddon

    “we no longer have the luxury of tolerating stupidity” — this is an emotional argument. It could logically be applied to either side, but you attach “stupidity” to the views you are trying to criticize without really justifying it.The US’s partial slide into totalitarianism has already harmed millions worldwide. The connection between individual actions which led to that slide and the resulting deaths may be less obvious than the link between individuals refusing vaccination and the resulting loss of herd immunity, but it is just as valid a connection to make.It may turn out that vaccinations *are* more important than the loss of personal freedom resulting from mandatory vaccinations, but the case is not as open-and-shut as you seem to be unquestioningly assuming it is. If there’s a stupidity we can’t afford, it’s the stupidity of overly simplistic arguments and models of reality.Being certain you are right does not make you right, and dismissal is not a valid counterargument.

  114. 114
    Woozle Staddon

    I think people should get vaccinated, barring special risks those vaccinations might pose for them. This answers your “selfishness” argument, i.e. I am not arguing that any individual should not be vaccinated unless the vaccine poses some unique danger to them.I do not think people should be required to be vaccinated. (See my earlier comments for why.) I would much rather see the vast majority of society sufficiently well-educated and sufficiently able to trust the medical establishment that they will voluntarily seek vaccination in the knowledge that it will help them, their children, and their community.

  115. 115
    Beyond Dimensions

    –verb (used without object)1.to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so: Only if one believes in something can one act purposefully.–verb (used with object)2.to have confidence or faith in the truth of (a positive assertion, story, etc.); give credence to.3.to have confidence in the assertions of (a person).4.to have a conviction that (a person or thing) is, has been, or will be engaged in a given action or involved in a given situation: The fugitive is believed to be headed for the Mexican border.5.to suppose or assume; understand (usually fol. by a noun clause): I believe that he has left town.—Verb phrase6.believe in,a.to be persuaded of the truth or existence of: to believe in Zoroastrianism; to believe in ghosts.b.to have faith in the reliability, honesty, benevolence, etc., of: I can help only if you believe in me.—Idiom7.make believe. make ( def. 46 ) .I agree. I used the word believe in a way I did not intend. As it stands from a grammatical stand-point the sentence falls under the first definition. However, the intent was for the second definition meaning. Pesky prepositional phrases masking themselves as objects when they are not.

  116. 116
    ckitching

    Not to mention he got it wrong, too. It’s not the strong that survive, but the most well adapted (or most prolific). Furthermore, you can never count out mere history in the role of evolution. The strongest might get hit by a meter, lightning or a falling tree, and leave the less adapted to survive and reproduce. A new environment might form from volcanic activity, and a preexisting one might disappear. A life-form that was less suited to the old environment might find itself better suited to the new, or vice versa. A creature that is extremely powerful and resilient when food is plentiful might more easily die of starvation when it’s not. There is simply no universal benchmark for fitness.

  117. 117
    katherine

    While I think your point is well-taken, your example is not. Whooping cough is surging, but not because vaccination rates are falling. So says the NYTimes: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/

  118. 118
    jimmyboy99

    “Being certain you are right does not make you right, and dismissal is not a valid counterargument.”I totally agree (and in fact am more suspicious of myself and others when I/they have that zealous absolute certainty). There was a great piece of research I read a few months back that demonstrated that certainty was negatively correlated with knowledge for many people.On this: I have serious reservations about vaccinating in so far as while it is a minor inconvenience for most, occasionally having the vaccine kills a person.If you are that person, then the ‘wider social good’ is a not a great argument.I would have found that an excellent argument – and, while I would still have come down where I did, I can see the point. But no one raised it.To date though: most of the arguments presented against seem to have been either a) our government might abuse any power we give them – they have before or b) it’s my body – piss off.I find both arguments to be dreadful in the face of the very definite, fatal danger presented by non-vaccination. Kids are dying here – unnecessarily, and as a definite result of non-vaccination (I have not seen anyone argue with the science?) – and that seems to be the ultimate argument. I want to read an anti-vaxer (or libertarian) who accepts this science say: it is OK for the kids to die because my/our right to say no to vaccines is more important.Kids deaths now – weighed against possible future abuses by a government? That sounds pretty easy to me – particularly when I have been through the process of trying to keep my own immune compromised child alive in an anti-vax environment (North London at the time). I’d stop the kids dying now by mandating vaccines. Particularly as this route is not unique to your government (and therefore takes away a lot from the anti-government control argument), but is becoming the norm in developed societies around the world.I agree by the way that the US is sliding into totalitarianism: but I don’t think it is of this kind. I think it is actually of a very different kind. It is more about ‘keep the people stupid and we can do what we want’. Fox News etc may or may not be a conspiracy to make the US population idiots. But it does achieve just that! But these folks – pushing that totalitarianism – have no interest at all in having an educated, sceptical population. Or a population of people who are capable of putting wider social values ahead of their own agenda.The only thing I can say in the US defence is that we (in the UK) are following along behind as our politicians see how easy it is to manipulate a population if you keep them stupid…

  119. 119
    jimmyboy99

    Who could disagree? But in the face of malicious anti-science that seems unlikely to achieve herd immunity.So then what?

  120. 120
    jimmyboy99

    “Liberties should always hold higher then even the sustainability of life in my thinking”What ANY liberties????

  121. 121
    Peter B

    Foo said: “You can’t just say “well, if I do this, somebody, one day, might, maybe, do something that could be attributed to this action”. You have to show that this action specifically will be very likely to cause harm to someone else.”Does ‘infecting people who can’t be vaccinated’ count as causing harm to someone else?My younger son is about 3 months old. He’s had his first pertussis vaccination, but that means he’s nowhere near fully protected from the disease. If you’ve exercised your right to not be vaccinated against pertussis, I don’t want you near my son.

  122. 122
    Peter B

    Care to expand on that answer?For example, should you face any consequences? Manslaughter charges, perhaps?

  123. 123
    Peter B

    Bggramngthvz said: “The only issue I have with this is that the original post is about HPV, which is a sexually transmitted illness.”I understand that not all HPVs are sexually transmitted. And I understand that Gardasil protects against illnesses other than those caused by the HPV.So to treat Gardasil as purely a protection against a sexually transmitted disease is misleading.

  124. 124
    Peter B

    Barret Denman said: “Liberties should always hold higher then even the sustainability of life in my thinking.”With respect, how much have you thought about this? Have you thought about how the sustainability of your life might be affected by someone else exercising their liberties?

  125. 125
    Chronicles of a Cosmo Nut

    I kind of resent the assumption that all feminists who have “liberal arts” backgrounds inherently distrust science. I am a performing arts major, but most of my closest friends are working toward degrees in the sciences, and then med school after that. I appreciate scientific breakthroughs when they have the potential to eradicate life-threatening conditions, but there are times when I question scientific studies, if they use “science” as a reason to perpetuate intolerance or ignorance. The reason why I question things like Northwestern’s 2005 study that claimed that male bisexuality didn’t exist is not because I’m an irrational artist who hates all science, but because I thought that their conclusion was total BS. When it comes to mandating medical practices, I do question the “it’s for your own good” argument, because scientists have done things that are not for our own good. I do support laws that require immunizations before children can enter school, but when it comes to mandating certain vaccinations (like the HPV vaccine), or proposed laws mandating that porn stars always use condoms (despite the fact that that porn actors are required to get tested weekly, and that the HIV?other STI transmission rate is far below the transmission rate for regular actors), I’m suspicious because such mandates are merely another way for a governing body to micromanage my sexuality.

  126. 126
    LS

    Not to be glib, but I, in turn, kind of resent your assumption that Jen implied all feminists with a liberal arts background have this bias. The very first line in the post is “Not all feminists distrust science.”And, speaking specifically of liberal arts majors:”So many vocal feminist aren’t scientists by training, but rather come from liberal arts educations like English, Political Science, Sociology, or Woman’s studies. And when you consider most liberal arts majors probably only had to take one or two introductory science classes in college, it’s understandable why they might not fully grasp how vaccinations are effective or why not all evolutionary psychology is bunk (though some is).”All that is said there is that it’s understandable why a liberal arts major wouldn’t understand the details of the science involved. And I think you’ll agree that it would be ludicrous to argue against that statement. If you can have a complete understanding of science without getting a science degree, then a lot of scientists have wasted their time.

  127. 127
    Rollingforest

    A science degree educates you deeply in a particular field. But anyone can educate themselves on a particular topic. If a starving artist creates a good experiment that counters what is scientifically accepted, then the scientists are still wrong, no matter how many degrees they have. You don’t need a degree to do science.

  128. 128
    Rollingforest

    If you reject the Northwestern 2005 study claiming that male bisexuality doesn’t exist, then find someone who has done good science suggesting that (or do it yourself). Rejecting a study just because you don’t like the result isn’t science.

  129. 129
    LS

    Duh.

  130. 130
    Jen

    Did you seriously just say adoption agencies don’t have enough babies to give away? What alternative universe are you living in?

  131. 131
    Woozle Staddon

    You may be right that abuse of science to violate civil rights is not the direction that we are going in now, and that the trend is more towards devaluing science and taking away its authority.However, part of my point is that by posing science as a threat (however distorted the perception may be from the reality), the anti-science policy makers are basically “forking” us with two obvious choices: either we accept the government’s right to violate people’s bodies (via whatever claims they want to call scientific — and how would *most* people tell the difference?), or we reject scientific authority.The blue/sane/liberal/pro-science portions of the public are generally lining up behind the former, and of course the red/ignorant/”conservative”/anti-science portions are lining up behind the latter.I maintain that those are not the only two choices. As I said in an earlier comment, I think a better solution lies in some combination of:- A less punitive, less guilt-oriented approach to getting people to vaccinate- B. more transparency in the relevant science- C. universal healthcare coverage — or at least much better healthcare coverage for the poorer elements of society who are most vulnerable to the possible abuse.

  132. 132
    Woozle Staddon

    Better science education — and better access to clinical data about specific vaccines — and better/universal healthcare insurance.Also, reclaim the mass media from the powermongers… but that’s going to take some time.

  133. 133
    Jen

    Why am I not surprised that some random person an the internet feels like they can stereotype me from a single post, even though I often defend the rights of minorities and GLBT individuals in this blog. Oh, right, because it’s easier to presume my argument is based on ignorance just because you don’t agree with it. Right.

  134. 134
    Chronicles of a Cosmo Nut

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07…There was a lot of criticism of the Northwestern study, and researchers questioned the way Northwestern conducted their research.

  135. 135
    Rollingforest

    Wow, so you are able to find the time to read all of our comments even while pursuing a PhD! That’s good to know, even if I risk your unhappiness while presenting my views. But give me a chance to defend myself. If one look at what families have to pay for adoptions, one learns that adoption agencies charge almost 9 times as much to adopt a white baby as they do to adopt a black baby. Why? Because of supply and demand. Most people want to adopt a child of the same race as them and since whites are the majority (and also financially better off), white babies get adopted at far higher rates.http://abcnews.go.com/US/story…Now, about 21% of the late term abortions performed every year are by white women. While I agree that this is a low number, it is still a noticeable population. So if these children were born instead of aborted, the above statistics would suggest that most of them would fairly easily be placed in an adopting family.http://www.lifeissues.net/writ…Before anyone starts ranting about how I’m supposedly advocating different policies for different races, let me say definitively that that isn’t true. I’m not saying that blacks should get late term abortions, but rather that I have provided another reason why white women shouldn’t. My main point is to show that the idea that the adoption agency can’t handle any more babies is a myth. There are many families who are interested in adopting but choose not to or to delay. They may opt out for unethical reasons (such as there isn’t a baby of the race that they want at a price they can afford). But the fact is that if they were provided with a choice that they wanted, there are plenty of families who would adopt who either aren’t adopting now or who are opting for sitting on long waiting lists until a baby they desire comes along. More importantly, though, is the fact that none of what I said above really matters. If a fetus has reached the second trimester, developed a brain and thus consciousness, then it is a baby and aborting it is murder EVEN if you can’t find a single family available to adopt it. Race doesn’t play a factor. Only the child’s awareness does.I realize that abortion is a touchy topic. I know that I piss off pro-lifers by suggesting that an embryo isn’t a person and I know that I piss off pro-choicers by suggesting that a second trimester fetus is. My opinion isn’t “pure” according to the National Right to Life Committee or Planned Parenthood and I catch a lot of flak for it. But you know what? I’ve got to keep holding these views until someone provides a logical reason why I shouldn’t because that’s how politics is supposed to work. If we don’t have logical reasons for our beliefs, then we sink into tribalism. Which, unfortunately, is exactly what has happened with the abortion debate on the national stage.

  136. 136
    Marion_delgado

    No one is goimg to break into your hut and vaccinate you. Currently, most places have only a limited set of things you have to be vaccinated TO do. If there’s a really nasty outbreak some time in the future, that will surely change to “TO go out amongst other people.” But right now it’s not so.If you want to, and can afford to, I think you can send your kids to certain schools that don’t vaccinate. Public schools are forced on kids and parents, so the autonomy’s already missing.There’s no abstract “have to be vaccinated” just a “have to be vaccinated to .. do food service, do health care, teach, be around pregnant women, etc.”

  137. 137
    jimmyboy99

    Well – I don’t think we are really disagreeing here: I would actually be deeply uncomfortable with genuine lining people up and forcing needles into them. I hate the idea of banning anything, and I hate the idea of coercion.But likewise: I am really horrified by the rise of deliberate stupidity masking itself behind religiosity. And I find it very difficult to get away from the dead children (particularly as I, as mentioned, had a child at risk from these cretinous wankers).I also have yet to hear of a way of getting herd immunity now (and this is going to be particularly the case in the US given the huge public stupidity that now exists there) without some level of moral or even legal coercion.I think I could be persuaded into no coercion if we introduced scepticism into every child’s education. I don’t mean atheism there by any stretch of the imagination: just a course that showed people how to evaluate facts and then described the various ways of deciding what is true: scientific proof (evidence based repeatable, published science); revelation; ‘it feels right to me’.So I react very strongly to libertarianism (I have seen versions of libertarianism in action in Africa and it really is not pretty): the argument – it’s my right to kill your child (which is effectively what we had presented several times here) is always going to get the raspberry from me…I can absolutely be persuaded to try to negotiate (though I am deeply sceptical about whether it can work in this instance given the stupidity being deliberately pushed by the religious right)

  138. 138
    Metal_Warrior

    Google how many starved to death, and compare the numbers. I had them, and as far as I remember they were not worse than your average common cold. No, you’re right, antibiotics do nothing against viruses, but antiviral drugs do. It’s just that they’re mixed in German – call it a translational error.

  139. 139
    Metal_Warrior

    Thing is you don’t know. You just THINK you don’t poison. It’s belief – with evidence of course, but pure, honest belief. Most of the text is not – as you were perfectly able to see – all about vaccines, but about medicine as we treat and take it. As long as people seem to get better with than without, there is no critical thinking – and that is the real problem which I wanted to state. As replied to MarcusBailius: In Germanys all-day-live there’s no difference between antibiotics and antiviral drugs. Mark it as a translation error.Grew a second intestinal flora – yes. Grew the same as before – hell no. It’s sadly not like a cut in the finger, it’s far worse. And we do know almost nothing about it.Actually it’s not the University of Google, but Leninger and Stryer. And I do not mix shampoo or glue, I am a little bit more than just the mixing sort. I know there’s no word for it in the US, but maybe you try to find an adequate description of the job called “Chemisch-Technischer Assistent” in Germany. I’d say it’s way above your Bachelor of Science (Chemistry). And yes, I did research on biochemistry during my training, although it was ‘just’ analytical research on the poisoned-milk-problem.Actually I quite enjoyed your post – the way you were writing was just the way that shows you had not the slightest clue of me being not a US-citizen. That’s why I think of it more a compliment than an insult.

  140. 140
    Metal_Warrior

    Really? I did not say the strong would survive – I said the fittest, which is a lot more than just ‘strong’. Maybe ‘feeble’ was wrong or not precise enough, but hey – there’s a lot to learn if you want to speak a foreign language in a reasonable scientific way.Oh, well, I’d dare say there is a universal benchmark for fitness, and I’d like to call it ‘life’. As far as we know it was reasonable if not useful at least for about 3.5 billion years. Point was just that ‘medicine to the last border’ is not what one may regard helpful in terms of fair natural selection.

  141. 141
    Metal_Warrior

    I just comment the last sentence, because I don’t see you getting my point: We – i.e. mankind – do eugenics. We do it in the most stupid way there is: We let healthy people starve to death because it may cost 30 dollar to feed a family in Africa for a whole month, but on the other hand we support even the most ill-fitted child to stay alive, even if it wouldn’t stay alive by itself for 5 minutes. This schizophrenic way costs a lot more while saving a lot less. And thus is where you are wrong: We don’t save everyone, we don’t even try. We do save the ‘right’ ones, i.e. the children in our 20k-$ neighborhood, while letting the ‘wrong’, i.e. the poor, die for no reason at all. Vaccines are only the tip of the iceberg, you’re right, but nevertheless a part of it.

  142. 142
    Rollingforest

    Hey, I was just responding to what you wrote at the end of your last post.

  143. 143
    Valhar2000

    Well, I see that the cancer of Libertarianism is still growing well within the atheist movement.

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