6기 박유미 (You Mi Park)
The recent trends in America for parents to reject vaccination of kids have been shocking. More than 10% of the adult American population with children is refusing to have their kids immunized (Calandrillo, 353). Immunization seems to be a common sense practice to ward off the diseases they are meant to prevent, and the microbiological theory that have been developed since Pasteur discovered penicillin in the nineteenth century have shown time and again the importance of primary exposure for a stronger resistance to secondary exposure. Despite this hard evidence, parents choose to rely on unfounded data that vaccination can cause autism and hence leave their children undefended, unprotected, and unhealthy.
The choice of anti-vaccination brings with it the ethical concern of free riding collective immunity. The logic is that even if 10% of the population does not have immunity towards certain diseases, others must have the immunity from vaccination, so enough of the population as a whole has immunity to prevent a pandemic. It is indeed safe to say that we, as a human species, have developed more immunity towards more things since the Middle Ages during the Black Death period, and also have gained immeasurable control over pests, hygiene, and vectors of possible diseases (Miller et al. 760). But since when has simple comparison with the past been enough to satisfy our modern standards of living? The point of vaccination is to not only confer collective immunity, but also cross immunity towards unforeseen disease agents in the future that may come up, such as the recently famous Avian Flu, SARS, or MERS. Vaccination must be understood as humanity’s best effort towards actively guarding its gene pool.
Governments have recognized this threat and have implemented mandatory vaccination laws such that parents may not choose to refuse vaccination. This takes away from personal freedom, yes, but in return, they receive the comfort of knowing that children are no longer potential victims of agonizing pain and death. The basis for this law lies in a 1905 Supreme Court ruling in the Jacobson v. Massachusetts, when Jacobson, a Swedish immigrant, refused to comply with the vaccination against polio and was fined $5 by the state of Massachusetts (197 US 11, 1905). The Court decidedly upheld the right of the state to impose a vaccination. And now the legacy continues with Center for Disease Control (CDC) and its Public Health Law Program (PHLP) that has compiled state statutes and regulations regarding school vaccinations. An individual’s right to choice should be curtailed to the extent that it prevents damage to others, and the choice to refuse vaccination has the potential to affect millions. It is a necessary choice that we need to make as a society so that diseases may be eradicated, more people saved, and ensured of the freedom that they were born to enjoy.
Calandrillo SP. (2004) “Vanishing Vaccinations” Univ Mich J Law Reform 37(2) 353-440.
Miller, E. Nicholas J Andrews, Pauline A Waight, Mary PE Slack, Robert C. George. “Herd immunity
and serotype replacement 4 years after seven-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccination in England and Wales” The Lancet Infectious Diseases 11(10) 760-768
Jacobson v. Massachusetts 197 US 11