I wasn't planning to ever write about this, and truth be told, I don't really want to, but I feel I must. I opened the paper the other day and saw a headline about yet another outbreak of measles in the northwestern United States. What has happened in the past few years in the U.S. with regard to vaccinations is so despicable, so intolerable, and so pernicious that it is truly beyond words or comprehension.
I've been aware of the "anti-vaccing" movement for as long as it's existed, but part of me has refused to touch this topic, or even look squarely at it, because it's so unbelievably horrific. It's like a grisly accident on the side of the road. I can't believe I have to talk about this, but I can't avoid it any longer. I'm not sure if this anti-vaccing movement is continuing to grow, or if it has plateaued or what, but I simply cannot believe that this is still a thing, or that it ever was to begin with. What we have here is the purest, most clear-cut, and perhaps only case I've ever witnessed of true human de-evolution. This is horror beyond reckoning. It's staggering. Absolutely staggering. It should terrify all of us. In some ways, I think that even the flat Earth movement is better than this--at least that doesn't directly hurt other people.
How did this even begin, anyway? Rumor had it that vaccines cause autism, but how did that rumor start, and why did it spread? To be honest, I don't even care enough to do the research to find out. Sorry--not this time. It doesn't matter; the rumors are wrong. I wouldn't be surprised if it was just some bogus tweet, some bullsh*t facebook post, or other such stupid social media thing. A few hypochondriacs believed it, and then it spread like wildfire. I don't know what else it could be. It's not as if there's any evidence to support this theory. This reveals something deeply sinister about our current world. For awhile, it seemed as if truth, science, and modernity were on an upward climb with unstoppable momentum. People seemed to trust experts and reliable sources of information, and were skeptical of rumors from random shmucks. Then along comes the internet, and suddenly it becomes possible for any nutjob in their underwear at a keyboard to dangerously confuse massive portions of the population with 140 characters. What is going to happen to our world?
Not that long ago, we were at a phase where many previously common diseases were all but eradicated. It looked like we were winning the battle against many illnesses. Measles was a thing of the past. This is progress. This is the direction humanity is supposed to go. Now, we see regular, annual outbreaks of measles in communities across the country. This is insanity. There is no excuse for this lunacy.
I am angry at parents for believing this anti-vaccine nonsense, but much more than that, I am deeply saddened for the children who are victims of this delusion. Here we have children who should have access to the best in medical care and disease prevention, but it is denied them due to pure ignorance and a social media panic. Imagine a specific example--a child born to a well-to-do family in a wealthy neighborhood in a prosperous community in the United States. Here is a child that by any metric is one of the luckiest people ever to live since the dawn of time. This child has more opportunity and luxury than people a few hundred years ago could have ever imagined. And yet, due to the sheer ignorance and gullibility of their parents, this child ends up suffering from an easily preventable disease early in life, a disease that can have serious complications. I feel an absolutely soul-crushing sorrow for children who have to endure this. I only hope that watching their children suffer from diseases is enough to shock these parents back into something resembling sanity.
Anti-vaccing is simply unacceptable. My life philosophy, which I've preached 1001 times on this forum, has always been--if you're not hurting anyone, then okie dokie lokie. Do whatever you want as long as it doesn't infringe on other's rights or hurt anyone. Anti-vaccing violates this rule. It puts your child at extreme risk, and it threatens everyone around them. It's causing resurgences of previously near-eradicated diseases. Unacceptable. I believe that not getting your children vaccinated should be illegal. I believe that the government should be able to administer vaccines by force if necessary. That's a bold statement, for sure, but I've given it a good amount of thought, and I stand by it. This cuts directly against my usual extremely libertarian-type views. I don't want the government to have much control over our lives, and I typically believe that any time a human being is forced to do anything, it's unethical. This is why I'm opposed to jury duty and the draft (were that still a thing). I've sometimes felt the same way about income taxes, though I can think of no other way to run a society. I even feel, to a certain extent, that compulsory education is unethical, from a certain point of view. I hated being forced to go to school against my will, and even as a child, I felt almost violated by it in a way. However, I think that the alternative is worse in that department. I feel like if left to my own devices, I would have been curious enough to voluntarily get educated, but many, if not most, wouldn't. Living in a country of completely unschooled people is a dystopian, dark age nightmare that I don't even want to think about. The point is, school is compulsory, and that's just how some things have to be. If we're required to get an education, then we ought to be required to participate in preventing disease epidemics. I want everyone to be as free as possible, and I'm sympathetic to parents' feelings that they should be in control over what happens to their child, but I feel that when it comes to infectious diseases that can run rampant throughout our civilization, your libertarian freedoms go out the window. Microorganisms are the most powerful, deadly, and destructive force on Earth. They are better at surviving than we are, they are far better and faster at adapting than we are, and one day they will destroy us. Perhaps my position seems a terrible price to pay, but we can't afford to give people the luxury of stupidity when the stakes are this high.
Do whatever you want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. Believe or practice whatever irrational things you want--visit psychics, practice astrology, go to a friggin' flat Earth convention if it floats your boat (just don't get to close to the edge ). None of those things hurt me. But when you opt out of vaccinating your children, you endanger them, me, and everyone else around you. When your ignorance and foolishness results in the outbreak of infectious diseases, I believe that that is where your freedom should end, and other people should start thinking for you.
EDIT: I've returned to this post nearly two years later, in the time of COVID, because I've rethought some things. I've always believed strongly in preserving the original post once I publish it, so I'm not changing the main essay at all. I'm simply adding some new thoughts here. I still think anti-vaccing is lunacy, and it still makes me angry. However, I've thought a lot about my stance that vaccines should be mandatory, and I'm having a lot of trouble with that now. A big reason for my rethinking of this is due to the following video:
I plan to get a covid vaccine when it's available and I'm convinced that it's safe and effective, but I've thought a lot about how I would feel if I didn't want one for whatever reason. Now, make no mistake, I think that declining the vaccine would be very foolish, but what if I was afraid of it for some reason, and led a very isolated life (which I do, incidentally), and therefore determined the vaccine to be unnecessary for me, and I declined to get it. How would I then feel if I was arrested and had the vaccine injected into me at gunpoint? As Beau made clear, every law, no matter how trivial, is backed up by penalty of death. If I resisted long enough and hard enough, the cops would put a gun to my head to make me take the vaccine. How would that make me feel? So, the $64,000 question is: am I comfortable putting a gun to someone else's head to make them take the vaccine? Can't say I am. No. I just can't condone pointing a gun at someone and saying, "this is what you're gonna do with your body." I believe extremely strongly in bodily autonomy. So, I'm walking that part back. I'm changing my mind.
However, I still struggle greatly with this due to the fact that anti-vaccers put the rest of us at risk when they go out in public and mingle with the rest of us. I have the luxury of staying home right now (not talking specifically about covid here, but just in general), but what if I was still in school and forced to go there and sit next to someone who was unvaccinated for, say, measles? Or polio? What if they brought it into my school? That scenario angers me greatly. It puts me and others at risk. That's why it's a difficult, grey area for me. I don't have a great answer for that.
My intuitions also get pushed around pretty hard if we up the stakes to civilization-ending threats. What if the zombie virus hit? What if we were literally in I Am Legend or 28 Days Later, and we developed a vaccine for the virus? Shouldn't that be mandatory? If the stakes are so high that failure to vaccinate means ending the human species, then I think that administering the vaccine by force is acceptable. That seems like an open and shut case to me. If it's the zombie virus, then I'd condone actually putting the vaccine in a dart gun and shooting people with it on sight. I think that would reasonable in that situation. So, if mandatory vaccines are okay for the zombie virus but not for covid, then where's the line? I don't know, and it's a tough thing that I'm still struggling with. But for now, I'll have to say that vaccines should stay voluntary. We certainly need more education about them though, that's for sure.