We had a measles epidemic in British Columbia last year, sparked by a small religious school where a very low percentage of the children were inoculated. For a while the “compulsory vaccination” conversation raged, and then it disappeared again.
Nothing promotes irrational knee-jerk reactions more these days than the topic of the compulsory vaccination of children. The major reason for this is that the concept consists of two words, and people get their reactions to each word switched. This was brought home to me clearly when I went on line with a bunch of my American friends. And I thought Canadians were having trouble with the problem!
You see, there are a whole lot of people in both our countries who react very strongly to the concept of anything being compulsory. I believe this is the Unwritten Amendment to the US Constitution. Anything that smacks of authority imposing its will on the individual brings back the old days of the British Empire, George III and the Tea Tax.
So when otherwise rational people hear about anything becoming compulsory, they immediately start searching the irrational sections of their brains for excuses, and they come up with “Vaccination.”
There is something about vaccination that puts us all on edge. Something about having a needle penetrate our skins, I think. I doubt if it’s an accident that the next disease to be eradicated worldwide will be polio, which has an oral vaccine. So when we get the chance to pair that subliminal fear with the more “logical” one of government power, then we create a self-licking ice-cream cone that dumps us into a spiral of logic and fear, the end of which is complete irrationality.
But Can We Believe the Doctors?
Adding to this quandary is the problem we dealt with last month on this blog, that science has been heavily discredited in the public eye. With good reason. “Scientific” evidence, heavily spun and publicized, has been used to add credence to smoking, global warming, Nazi genocide and other partisan causes.
So when some idiot (in this case it was John F Kennedy, Jr. in 2015) blatantly publishes a highly exaggerated accusation that a conference was discussing ways to cover up “a staggering number of earlier studies” (there were none) connecting inoculations to SDHD, Hyperactivity, autism, and, for all I know, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic hangnails, this appeals to people’s dual fear of cover-ups and needles, and fear sweeps the nation.
The Fear of the Unknown
Putting aside the quite rightful fears of those who have had bad reactions to sera of various sorts, most abstainers are falling foul of the usual tricks of human psychology.
The biggest one is autism. In the first place, autism is a grab bag of fears about a grab bag of mental conditions that nobody knows much about. The fact that autism becomes apparent just about the age that children are getting inoculated leads to a whole bunch of fallacious “he didn’t start showing symptoms until he had his shots” stories. Which are about as logical as the old story that “ice-cream cones kill people” because ice cream sales and deaths increase during heat waves. But when the old fear of needles comes calling, the doctors can talk until they’re blue in the face, and the willfully ignorant will still balk.
The bottom line is statistical. Your child will have a better chance of survival if he or she is inoculated. Period. Do you want that stated without the dreaded i-word? Diseases do more damage than needles. Okay, I used the n-word. See the problem?
Illogic as Usual
Granted, modern medicine is a highly complex system, difficult to comprehend. The irony of it is that the people most equipped to understand it well enough to make a decision are inoculating their children. It is those who are worst equipped to know what is going on that resort to faulty logic, fake science, and prejudice.
But that’s the way the world usually goes, I suppose. The unfortunate part is that, in this case, the ignorant have the ability to cause damage to the rest of us through their behaviour. We have laws that stop other drivers from killing us with their cars. Why not stop other children from killing ours with their diseases?
The Simple Solution
Don’t make inoculations compulsory. That’s unconstitutional. But don’t force inoculated children to associate with the unprotected. Let the Typhoid Marys of this generation get their schooling and recreation elsewhere at their own expense. I suspect that in the long run the aversion to poverty will trump the aversion to needles.
PS An Interesting Contrast
France has been governed under the Napoleonic Code, one of the most restrictive bureaucracies in the free world, for a couple of hundred years. The French government regularly dictates all sorts of draconic legislation, trampling on the freedoms of those who were the source of liberté, egalité, et fraternité. So the French people in their quiet revolutionary way have formed all sorts of passive-aggressive ways of dealing with these restrictions.
France has compulsory inoculations. But there have to be a few loopholes, and anyone who really wants to duck can always find a doctor willing to sign the permit for medical reasons, or a priest who will give a philosophical hall pass. Since most people don’t want to go through the hassle, a high enough percentage of French children end up vaccinated, and the problem is solved.
The French system forces those who object to take action. The North American lack of system allows people to object by doing nothing. Guess who wins?