Please don’t politicize vaccine refusal

Given recent measles outbreaks and the ravenous news cycle, it was inevitable that public attention would shift to politicians’ position on vaccination. Some commenters are reacting by politicizing the vaccine debate, painting conservatives or the tea party (or, in response to those messages, liberals) as anti-vaccine. Please don’t let this message take hold. It’s wrong, it’s dangerous, and it’s counterproductive.

The president set off a small chain reaction by advising parents to vaccinate, but Governor Chris Christie’s comments have drawn the most attention. His statement was almost meaningless; he told reporters that (of course) he vaccinated his own children, and “that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.” Vaccination is not strictly mandatory in any state, and most states permit exemptions for the few parents who have ideological objections to modern medicine, so as a matter of simple fact the government has already decided and given parents that choice. (He went on with a few more comments, but other than to say that obviously we disagree with them, there’s not much point in dissecting them here.)

Christie is a politician who wants to avoid unnecessary controversy. After the first negative reports of his comments emerged, he distanced himself from anti-vaxers by firmly stating, “there is no question kids should be vaccinated.” But it was too late. The public picked up on his initial remarks and fed him straight into the gnashing teeth of the news cycle. And once the meal started, other prominent politicians with an eye on 2016 staked out seats at the table. Rand Paul seemed to give credence to some anti-vax myths, although he, too, backed down a bit and clarified that vaccines are “a good thing.” His fellow conservative (and fellow physician) Ben Carson pushed back on those statements, backing vaccination and even comparing anti-vaxers to secondhand smokers. Hillary Clinton, the three conservatives’ bête noir, came out with her own strong, respectable and simple message: “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids.”

Notice something about these statements? Even the most ant-vax statement isn’t all that opposed to vaccination, compared to what you read online. That’s no surprise. The overwhelming majority of parents vaccinate their kids, and politicians who offend overwhelming majorities retire early. But you’re going to read a lot of headlines and tweets about how Rand Paul and Chris Christie are anti-vaxers because they’re pandering to the voters; you may even see people promoting the meme that Republicans (or conservatives or Tea Partiers) are anti-vax now. Don’t buy it.

First, it’s not true. The majority of Americans, the majority of voters, the majority of conservatives, and the majority of liberals reject the anti-vaccine movement and its scary urban legends. Specific examples like Ben Carson and Hillary Clinton are easy to find. But we know a lot about how people see vaccines generally. Researchers have concluded that “political outlooks” don’t make a real difference in whether people see vaccines as safe and effective. It’s not just whether you call yourself a Republican or a Democrat, either; whether or not you believe in global warming (or evolution) also doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to understanding that vaccines are safe and effective. The fact is that people overwhelmingly support vaccination, no matter what their politics, income, or education. And that’s no surprise. You can’t beat the hell out of polio, smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, and tetanus without making friends.

But there’s another reason not to believe or spread the idea that any one political party or persuasion is anti-vaccine. It’s a dangerous notion that creates an ideological split where there wasn’t one before. Ironically I was writing about this just around the time Christie was making his comments. As I said then, and as Chris Mooney has since explained, the problem is recruitment. Right now, most people support vaccination and reject anti-vaccine talking points. (I know that can seem implausible, given how visible those hoary anti-science stories are online. But vaccination rates don’t lie—the vast majority of parents reject anti-vax scaremongering.) If we start drawing party lines on top of the vaccine debate, people will start to use their party affiliation to define their position on vaccines. They won’t realize they’re doing it. They’ll honestly think they’re making decisions about vaccines based on the facts. But they’ll be judging those facts based on the community they belong to, the way we all do. So we can’t let those communities be defined as anti-vax communities!

There’s some interesting research on this question. This is a little oversimplified, but basically researchers tested people to determine how concerned they were about risks from things like nuclear power, gun ownership, global warming, and vaccines. They could see how people clumped together or spread apart. Just like you’d expect, climate change and gun possession were divisive, with some people seeing them as very risky and others not so concerned. Vaccines weren’t like that—across the board, people were relatively unconcerned about the risk of vaccination.

Source: The Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School
Source: Dan Kahan and the Cultural Cognition Project

Until the researchers showed people a fake editorial politicizing the vaccine debate. The article complained about “Michele Bachmann’s famously idiotic claim, made in a Republican Party presidential debate,” and compared comparing vaccine deniers to climate change deniers and creationists (much more politically-aligned debates). People who were exposed to this article became polarized. Those who were slightly more “anti-vaccine” lost confidence in vaccination and started to overestimate the risk of vaccines compared to the control group. Remember that the variable here is exposure to an article criticizing anti-vaxers. The result was to make more anti-vaxers.

The vaccine debate is mostly about parents who are considering the issue for the first time, and/or aren’t completely persuaded one way or the other. (The large majority of people who are sold on vaccines don’t need the debate; the small number of committed anti-vaxers aren’t likely to be persuaded.) Those people will pick sides if you give them enough reason to. Attacking them for being hesitant will do it, but so will attacking people they respect and admire. Also, defining a politician or party as “anti-vax” just signals to people who identify with that person or group that it’s OK to be anti-vax. So for someone who hasn’t been exposed to the debate, letting it get politicized will both make it easier to pick sides and encourage them to do so. We want them deciding based on sound medical advice, not political affiliation—so don’t politicize the debate.

Obviously this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t criticize politicians for taking an uninformed or harmful position. Please, by all means, criticize away. And use positive pressure too. Thank your representatives for taking a good position, whether you voted for them or not. If you’re in Kentucky, send Rand Paul an email or tweet thanking him for acknowledging the good that vaccines do; just don’t forget to also educate him on the truth about anti-vaccine talking points. The carrot and the stick are both important, and they should be coming from both sides of the aisle. Let politicians know that their constituents and their constituents’ friends care about good medical policy.

But don’t let this discussion get bogged down in party or identity politics. It’s inaccurate and counterproductive.

Advertisements

40 thoughts on “Please don’t politicize vaccine refusal

  1. Rockingthehomestead February 4, 2015 / 8:16 am

    So good! Thank you! I get dismayed at a lot of the pro vaccine talking points I hear because so often they politicize the issue like this. Thanks!

  2. reissd February 4, 2015 / 8:51 am

    What a crucially important message. Thank you!

  3. proto57 February 4, 2015 / 11:35 am

    It is very important not to politicize this, I agree. But unfortunately it will be, and I’d even say in some ways political lessons can be learned from the situation.

    The use of politics to describe a problem, and why it happened, and what can be done about it, is not an invalid approach. The problem arises when any group tries to miscast the role of others, to advance their own image. The reality here is that there is nothing “conservative” or “liberal” about the need to vaccinate, which should be determined on its own merits. What is the deciding factor is the level of choice to vaccinate… the right tends to believe these choices should tend to be in the hand of the individual, and the family; while the left tends to believe that these choices should be the governments, who “know best”.

    So when you hear Christie (who is not conservative, but moderate, by the way) making statements, they are about choice, not how good the vaccine is or isn’t, and not about whether or not they are effective, or dangerous.

    By the way, for the record, I am very politically conservative, however I do feel… of course… that there are times that the individual must, by law, follow certain dictates regarding vaccination, because of the impact on society as a whole. That is, while I am a great believer in individual rights and responsibilities, and the freedom to choose, there are many cases where these rights must be over ridden for the public good. I mean, the State has a right to stop me from raising rabid raccoons in my backyard, or even healthy Bengal Tigers, and so on. So if kids are going to die because of measles, then my personal objections might be overridden, and I have to understand that. And that being said, of course my daughter got all the proper measles shots, at the proper time, for her, and for the other kids.

    And the political opinions on this have changed. Not so long ago, even Obama was preaching restraint and personal choice in measles vaccinations, due to public distrust of the it, and erroneous reports of certain possible side effects. And the issue of bringing untested, undocumented children in… tens of thousands of them… with unknown diseases, and distributed them about our population, is of course strongly objected to by many conservatives, including me. So I think while that has been, unfortunately, a politicized issue, I don’t think it should be… it is one of common sense practicality: A country should carefully control the risk of disease crossing its own borders. Both left and right should agree, I mean, that this makes sense.

    Anyway, my two cents. Great post, BTW.

    • Colin February 4, 2015 / 3:23 pm

      Thanks, I appreciate your thoughts.

  4. tomh February 5, 2015 / 1:29 pm

    First, Christie could only be called as a moderate by someone who describes themselves as, “very politically conservative.” Aside from that, what this article ignores, is that the vast majority of people who don’t vaccinate their children use the religious exemption for vaccines, available in 48 states, to put the general population at risk. Getting rid of that exemption would go a long way towards solving the vaccine problem in the US. Of course, that would mean taking on the religious lobby at the highest levels, which is a tall order.

    • proto57 February 5, 2015 / 1:59 pm

      Well I’m not sure about your Christie stance… I do think politically he would not be considered a conservative by most, but moderate. His stance on carbon credits, man made global warming, illegal immigration, etc., would not make him a right winger, for sure. But it’s relative, and I’ll accept that I see it from my perspective.

      As for the religious exception, first of all… and I also happen to be a very devout atheist… I still am not sure that removing religious objections to vaccine would be the answer in all cases. I think it would depend on the geographical location and social environment of the individual cases… such as demanding a measles vaccine in a crowded urban school, but a home schooled child in a town of 300… would that make sense?

      So maybe exemptions should be based a slew of considerations, but removing all religious objections might be problematic, and blanket rules based on religion might be unconstitutional. Not sure though, it is a good point.

      Also… and I’m not sure of the term for it… but most vaccinationi programs used to eradicate a disease from a population do not rely on 100% vaccination coverage, but rather on isolating “cells” of population, and thereby limiting the spread of disease between populations. It then dies out on its own. I think this is how smallpox was irradicated, because vaccinating 100% of the world population would have been impossible. It was only a much smaller percentage which was necessary.

      So keeping religious objections in mind, perhaps the number and location would not rise to, nor affect, a new program to (re-) eradicate measles from out population (again). Again, I am not sure, but perhaps that is how it could be approached.

    • Ben February 14, 2015 / 11:47 am

      “Getting rid of that exemption would go a long way towards solving the vaccine problem in the US.”

      No, it wouldn’t. The anti-vax movement feeds off fears of powerful government / corporations controlling society, you’d be giving them material indisputable proof of that. You get more bees with honey.

      “Of course, that would mean taking on the religious lobby at the highest levels, which is a tall order.”

      And amending the Constitution and throwing out medical ethics.

      “First, Christie could only be called as a moderate by someone who describes themselves as, “very politically conservative.””

      You’re far more extreme than Christie.

      • tomh February 14, 2015 / 12:16 pm

        “And amending the Constitution and throwing out medical ethics.”

        Seriously? Not providing a religious exemption for children’s vaccinations would require amending the Constitution? So, I guess, Mississippi and West Virginia are violating the Constitution since those two states don’t provide such an exemption. That must sound silly, even to you.

  5. tomh February 5, 2015 / 3:17 pm

    “most vaccinationi programs used to eradicate a disease from a population do not rely on 100% vaccination coverage, but rather on isolating “cells” of population, and thereby limiting the spread of disease between populations. It then dies out on its own.”

    This seriously downplays the need for vaccinations. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, for measles, the herd-immunity threshold is 92 to 94% to prevent sustained spread of the virus, and outbreaks have occurred with even higher immunity levels. There is no way to achieve these levels if we allow parents to opt-out of vaccinations on a whim, or even for sincerely held religious beliefs, putting the health of the entire community at risk. A home-schooled child in a small town should certainly be required to be vaccinated. Not only is the child at risk, but you are putting children who are too young to be vaccinated, as well as those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, at risk. There is no rational, science-based argument for not requiring vaccinations for all children, (with medical exemptions, of course).

    There is also the financial aspect. The estimated cost of addressing seven confirmed cases of measles during an outbreak in two Arizona hospitals was $800,000, a large part of which was the cost of furloughing health care workers who had no evidence of measles immunity. We are all going to pay dearly, whether we’re immune or not, for the privilege of some to bypass generally applicable laws for the sake of their beliefs.

    • proto57 February 5, 2015 / 5:15 pm

      Hi Tom: You’ve misused my point. I don’t know the threshold, I was only musing that it is not usually a need for 100% vaccinations, which is actually upheld by your quote, “… the herd-immunity threshold is 92 to 94% to prevent sustained spread of the virus, and outbreaks have occurred with even higher immunity levels.”

      I was speculating that it may be possible, in some cases, to accommodate those with religious objections… of course the numbers would have to fall within the percentage allowable to opt out for it to work. Maybe it would not be, I don’t know. But they could fall within the 6% to 8% non vaccinated population in your figures, conceivably.

      But in no way did I suggest, nor do I believe, that anything should be allowed that would allow the disease to spread… so if your scenario is correct, that even a child home schooled in a small town would put others at risk, then by all means I agree.

      Are you for stricter measures to ensure that no one come into the country, legally or illegally, unless they are known to be vaccinated against this disease?

      • JerryA February 5, 2015 / 8:10 pm

        You are missing an important point. There is a certain percentage of people who are not immune due to being too young (below 1 y.o., already 1+% of the population), very elderly, those on immune suppressant drugs, those whose vaccination did not induce an immune response, and people allergic to vaccine ingredients. (This is just off the top of my head.) The people who do not wish to be vaccinated add to the existing population who are not immune.

        As for your last line, you apparently do not know that (a) Immigration and Customs Enforcement already has rules for disease control and immunization and (b) most other countries in the western hemisphere have higher vaccination rates than the USA. Most of those countries are poorer, but they have priorities including universal health care and immunizations. This “immigrants are dirty” idea that you picked up is being spread by ignorant racists.

  6. tomh February 5, 2015 / 6:13 pm

    @ Proto57

    Under the immigration laws of the United States, a foreign national who applies for an immigrant visa abroad, or who seeks to adjust status to a permanent resident while in the United States, is required to receive vaccinations to prevent the following diseases:

    Mumps
    Measles
    Rubella
    Polio
    Tetanus and diphtheria
    Pertussis
    Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib)
    Hepatitis A
    Hepatitis B
    Rotavirus
    Meningococcal disease
    Varicella
    Pneumococcal disease
    Seasonal influenza

    All immigrant applicants receive a medical exam. During the exam, applicants are required to show proof that they have received the vaccines. If an applicant does not have proof of having received the required vaccines, the law states that the vaccines must be given at the time of the medical exam.

    So I’m not sure what you’re asking, when you ask if I’m for stricter measures. These seem sufficient to me. I would contend that US citizens should be subject to the same rules as immigrants. But they’re not.

    • proto57 February 5, 2015 / 6:29 pm

      Great Tom.,.. we are still in perfect agreement. Now answer the second part of my question, about stricter border control… that was the reference to “illegally”. Don’t you feel that taking the measures, above, that we both agree on, is pointless if millions of people are allowed to come here illegally… even encouraged and helped to do so, by their governments, and by the lax measures of ours? When Obama let the tens of thousands of Honduran children into this country, they were not tested, nor inoculated, to the best of our understanding. We were also not allowed the information as to where they went. There seems to have been an upsurge in many diseases that we were not so concerned about in this country any longer, such as TB, measles, various respiratory illnesses, whooping cough and scarlet fever.

      So clearly, since this is a threat, and since you do believe that these vaccinations are very important, and since it is impossible to check a person who comes through without checking in, the you must be for a sealed border, too? Or not?

      • JerryA February 5, 2015 / 8:15 pm

        Sealed border? Are you an advocate for, what could we call it, how about an “Iron Curtain”? Along all 2,000 miles of our southern land border, all 5,500+ miles of our northern land border (including Alaska), and all 95,000 miles of our shoreline? Yeah, that’ll work. I’d laugh, but I suspect you’re not joking.

        • proto57 February 5, 2015 / 8:39 pm

          But since Jerry asked me a question, I’ll answer him:

          “Sealed border? Are you an advocate for, what could we call it, how about an “Iron Curtain”?”

          The term “Iron Curtain” is of course for a border that is designed to keep people in, in a totalitarian, or other, regime. To my knowledge there has not been a suggestion by anyone, of any political ilk, to fill any imagined need to keep people from leaving the USA.

          “Along all 2,000 miles of our southern land border..”

          Yes, of course. A country is not dirt, trees, rivers and lakes… it is defined by its sovereignty. With no borders, a country ceases to exist. But it is not an arbitrary concept, there are reasons people want to form and keep a country. One of them is to protect themselves against disease. That is a no brainer. Again, there should be nothing “conservative” or “liberal” about it. We.. and all groups, really, who cared to note that sick people make others sick… were careful to screen people who came across their borders. There is nothing racist about it, nothing political about it, nothing mean or kind about it… it is just a fact of life and death and viruses.

          “… all 5,500+ miles of our northern land border (including Alaska), and all 95,000 miles of our shoreline? Yeah, that’ll work. I’d laugh, but I suspect you’re not joking.”

          Well you’ve thrown a lot in the pot, and are a bit sarcastic, but I’ll answer: The northern land border should be better protected, but not for the disease reasons this thread is about,… but for reasons of terrorism and black market trading, and drugs, and so on. There is a reason I sat in a train-yard for two hours in Niagra two years ago, questioned by Canadian guards, with bomb and drug sniffing dogs checking my baggage. And the same, by our people, on the way back. Now the only way to extend your sarcasm to suggest that the border should not be protected, would be to obviate the reason the great cost and trouble to do THAT exists.

          But no, I don’t think worry about the Honduran flu, or TB, or measles, etc., is a big reason that border is patrolled.

          As for the ocean, it is not a major problem for disease, as the logistics of ocean travel allow more careful control of the condition and status of anyone coming into ports, of course. The same with the airports, of course.

          So “no” I’m not joking of course, and you know that also, of course. But again it seems to be a very politicized issue, when I contend it should not be. Very simply, and historic, and obvious method of controlling a country’s threat of disease is to control its borders, and to carefully screen anyone who wants to enter for proper vaccinations and health. It has always been done, it makes sense, and our current lax policies to the contrary are a real threat.. no matter how you want to spin it, that is clear.

          • Colin February 6, 2015 / 12:37 am

            What reason is there to believe that immigration, legal or otherwise, contributes significantly to the spread of communicable disease in the US? (Googling for a summary of the argument has not been helpful.)

            • proto57 February 6, 2015 / 7:17 am

              Hi Colin: It is a logical continuation within this very thread, and with a few figures that can be googled, combined with simple common sense. First of all, it has been argued by Tom, and others here, and I have agreed, that it is important that our population be vaccinated against measles.

              And by most estimates the number of undocumented persons in the US is between 11 and 20 million, and so they make up at least 3% of the population, and possibly (we don’t know) as much as 6% or more.

              And since we do not know the the vaccination status of our undocumented population, and since we do not know in most cases where they live, we cannot therefore insist that they be vaccinated. So they will remain, in most cases, un-vaccinated.

              Now one is welcome to disagree that a segment of the population should be allowed to remain with an unknown vaccination status (and probably, most likely, not vaccinated at all), but that has not been done here, nor do I agree it is a good idea (I was at most musing on the possibility that religious exemptions may be allowed, if they fit within a normally un-vaccinated number).

              • JerryA February 6, 2015 / 8:44 am

                You are the one who used the term “sealed border”. It does not matter in which direction a border is sealed, so that objection is illogical. It is up to you to show how a “sealed border” is possible. I merely pointed out just how much border we have. Are you willing to be taxed enough to pay for this? The US experiment with sealing off the southern border using IBM in the late 2000’s cost $10B for 661 miles, or $15M per mile.
                There is a world of hyperbole between saying that trying to seal our border is absurd versus advocating a totally open border with no controls whatsoever. I’m not in favor of either idea- that’s your strawman argument, not mine.

                • proto57 February 6, 2015 / 2:32 pm

                  The objection to the term “Iron Curtain” is not at all illogical, nor the distinction between keeping unhappy citizens from leaving, vs,. keeping illegal aliens from coming in without permission. They are entirely different concepts, with entirely different implications. So you cannot lump the two, philosophically, together, which you are attempting to do. A person who feels that people should go through a process of notification, screening and approval before entering out country is not at all interested in or worried about anyone leaving. That is absurd.

                  And the practicality of doing so, and the costs, are also not the issue. That is another discussion. That being said, forcing me to address this, of course more can be done, and of course it will never be perfect, and of course it will cost more to improve what we have now. I did not imply otherwise… although again you attempted to portray my use of “sealed” to pretend I meant “sealed perfectly”. Sophistry on your part, of course. A balloon is “sealed” in principle, but air leaks out over time. Nothing is perfect, of course.

                  So stick to the issue being discussed: Whether or not the border should be sealed to an illegal, undocumented, and potentially un-vaccinated, and un-tested, population. I’ve shown, in these discussions, that although a conservative, I do not..,. as feared and claimed of us, as a unit… believe in any absolute “right” to not be vaccinated; that the needs of society, health and safety, outweigh my personal rights to privacy and self-determination.

                  That is, I showed that I agree with the premise of the original post: It is important not to politicize issues of public health… we must put all that aside. Likewise, I’ve pointed out that those who are for more lax view of illegal immigration, and even supportive of Obama’s recent importation of un-vaccinated juveniles, and so on… that it, the more liberal, “progressive” of us, politically, ought to realize that the border issue is one of danger to our society, health wise.

                  But rather than agree that this is a problem, those who disagree, politically, with closing the border, are arguing (hypocritically) against it. And anyone who can read these arguments with a clear head can see that this means your view, and the others, is clearly politicized… using sophistry and straw men to skirt the reality of the danger: Such as bringing up moot points such as why it is wrong to seal people in, which is an irrelevant issue to the argument; why the ones caught are tested, so it is OK, thus ignoring the 11 million plus who were not caught; saying the border cannot be totally sealed, which is not the point, it must be sealed better; using sarcasm; using invectives aimed at the Right, and so on…

                  … all because you, and I, and really anyone with common sense, since the first caveman noticed a coughing person might make your family sick, knows it is important to screen those who may be sick, and unprotected, from coming in contact with one’s tribe. There is no way you can argue against that simple principle, so you must deflect.

                  So to restate the very simple, core, obvious point: Yes, it is important that your population be vaccinated against disease, to prevent the spread of it. And therefore it is important to control immigration, which we do. And therefore it is important to curtail, as much as possible, illegal entry to one’s country, as they pose a threat, since they are not tested, and not vaccinated, or, at least, we do not know. So any argument you make against sealing the border must ignore, distort, and/or ridicule the basic common sense reality of this paragraph’s statement. That is, you must politicize it, which you have amply demonstrated you are capable of.

              • Colin February 8, 2015 / 8:09 pm

                I agree that it’s important to vaccinate against measles, but I’m reluctant to place any significant blame on immigration without solid empirical evidence that immigration depresses immunization rates by a significant amount. Not knowing the vaccination status of undocumented immigrants doesn’t mean that they aren’t vaccinated; many countries (even those supplying significant numbers of undocumented immigrants) have acceptably high vaccination rates, and many undocumented immigrants have access to clinical health care that may include immunizations.

                I would be pretty surprised if there weren’t any studies on these vaccination rates, but my quick search didn’t find any.

  7. tomh February 5, 2015 / 7:25 pm

    Sealing the border for fear of children bringing in disease? Now you’re wandering into right-wing tea party hysteria. Over an eight month period last year, over 52,000 children traveling without an adult were caught entering the country from Mexico. While some were ill, none had anything exotic or unexpected, according to Dr. Mark Ward of Texas Children’s Hospital, who is president of the Texas Pediatric Society. The children are evaluated, treated, and vaccinated and if children are determined to have any communicable disease or have been exposed to a communicable disease, they are placed in a program or facility that has the capacity to quarantine. The idea that children are bringing in ebola or exotic diseases is simply anti-immigrant hysteria.

    Far more important is that US children be vaccinated. That’s where the problem lies. And to bring the topic back to the original post, I would say that vaccination policy is all about politics. When the political process opens loopholes for parents to avoid vaccinating their children, as it currently does in the US, we’re going endure more outbreaks of diseases that we once had overcome. And politicians that talk about “choice,” as Christie does, are simply exploiting the American ideal of fairness, that all opinions are equal, and that rugged individualism trumps all.

    • proto57 February 5, 2015 / 7:42 pm

      And there you have it folks, the very subject of this post, brought out in broad daylight for all to see: The very person who rightly knows how important vaccinations are for everyone, now is not so firm on making sure that everyone here gets one… well, some must, others.. not to worry.

      No, that is of course wrong. A virus is a virus, and it knows no politics. People should be vaccinated, and people must be checked to make sure they do not spread disease. There is nothing Tea Party nor Leftist, nor should be, about a person who is not checked, sitting next to my child in a school or subway or playground.

      You say it is “anti-immigration hysteria” to worry that un-vaccinated, untested people in our population would be a problem, then why is it not “anti-religious” hysteria on your part to insist that religious objections not be allowed? I don’t think it is, by the way, I only point out the chasm in your argument.

      To cover your hypocrisy, you cite irrelevant statistics… the numbers who were found, and tested. Likewise, someone against measles could easily cite the very overwhelming number of people who do not have measles in this country, to claim we do not need to vaccinate. Your logic is flawed, and with your appending an imagined political label to my argument, you expose why your logic is flawed.

      By the very principles you previously cited, that everyone must be vaccinated, with no exceptions for religious or other beliefs, you clearly explained your position. There is no way you would be able to rationalize your belief that an open border, with untested people coming in, would not be counter to your own stated beliefs.

      Again the actual blog post here is excellent, and points out a serious problem… the politizing of issues which should know no political boundries. I agree wholeheartedly. And I thank Tom for amply demonstrating how very intelligent people can let their own political bias interfere with their own, even strongly stated, common sense ideals.

  8. tomh February 5, 2015 / 8:07 pm

    “By the very principles you previously cited, that everyone must be vaccinated”

    I never said everyone must be vaccinated, that makes no sense. Age-appropriate vaccinations are needed, and since all people who are caught crossing the border are already medically examined, in spite of what you seem to believe, I’m not sure what your point is. Perhaps you should define what you mean by “sealing the border,” rather than triumphantly declaring victory. I assume you mean sealing all borders, since someone could slip in with a disease from anywhere. How would you go about this, exactly? Build a fence? A great wall?

    You claim statistics are irrelevant, yet your unfounded speculations make for sound policy.

    • proto57 February 5, 2015 / 8:16 pm

      I rest my case. I’ve made my points, and they will be, and Tom’s will be, quite clear to everyone who reads this with an open (and non-political?) mind. All the best…

  9. tomh February 5, 2015 / 8:25 pm

    Good strategy. Declare victory and retire.

  10. The Samurai Socialist February 6, 2015 / 4:51 am

    Interesting article, but the whole issue has blown up in the media precisely because it is being used as a political tool. In political terms this isn’t just about vaccinations, it is about identity and the way that the right tries to evoke the sprit of the Constitution by promoting ‘freedom of individual choice’ at every opportunity. Its part of the race for candidates to align themselves with the issues at the heart of American democracy, so the fact the they end up espousing odd views is all part of a wider political game. Feel free to have a look at the article on Identity Politics (and vaccinations) here if you’re interested:

    http://thesearchforsocialism.com/2015/02/06/identity-politics-vaccinations-in-the-usa/

  11. Heidi February 6, 2015 / 4:37 pm

    Vaccines are dangerous, my daughter at 4 months got pertussis from her vaccine, I have not vaccinated 4 of my kids, they have extremely strong immune systems, do not get sick, not vaccinated.
    Prefer to strengthen immunity naturally, makes it stronger, shots weaken it.

    • JerryA February 6, 2015 / 8:14 pm

      The pertussis vaccine has consisted of purified inactivated proteins, not killed cells, since 1991. It is simply not possible to get pertussis (or any other illness) from that vaccine. Secondly, healthy un-immunized children are just as susceptible to infection as anyone else. Finally, vaccines do not weaken the immune system, just train it to fight the same viruses and bacteria from which their sequences are derived. I do not expect you to believe me, but I hope to convince other people that even well-meaning people like Heidi are spreading anti-vaccine misinformation.

  12. lilpunk February 7, 2015 / 5:57 pm

    Reblogged this on Monkey see, monkey holler! and commented:

    The writer is right. Vaccine refusal is about personal choice. Unfortunately that personal choice directly affects a vulnerable child and other vulnerable children in the population. This isn’t about politics. It’s about Science and Medicine. I will admit that medicine has done a crappy job of explaining Science to the Public. It’s also done a really shitty job of explaining why Scientists sometimes get it all so terribly wrong. But this, Vaccines, is important. And we aren’t wrong about this. Do We even get Vaccines right all the time? nope. Look at this year’s flu vaccine. Obviously didn’t do a good job in predicting the strains. But predicting the flu strain for this year is like trying to count cards in Vegas. So,ermines you get it right and you win big money. Sometimes you get it wrong and you get kicked out on your ass. The rotavirus vaccine is another example. The intention was good. Unfortunately Mother Nature outsmarted us. So we learned and now we’ve got a good working vaccine with lower chances of intussusception, but we still keep a very stern eye on it. And as a result, the number of children suffering from crippling watery dehydrating diarrhea has dropped dramatically. We’ve almost wiped out Polio. So why place so much faith on this One Lie told by an Unethical Scientist and risk the lives of your children? Vaccinate your children. Don’t turn this into a political debate. Because it’s not. It’s Science.

  13. Jack April 10, 2015 / 9:27 pm

    Unfortunately, the Government does itself a disservice by making such public and flagrant errors such as letting corporations and oligarchs have excessive power (Citizen’s United, for example). This makes people doubt the credibility and sensibility of those in “legitimate” power. This opens the floodgates for the uninformed, crackpots, and paranoids to make specious claims against the government and any science being debated. The original idea was that the government would be composed of knowledgeable and rational people that saw what was needed based on reliable evidence provided by subject matter expert consensus and legislate for it–despite what some of the people wanted. This is where the science should be leveled toward everyone equally and irrespective of their desire for religious exclusion. There will be mistakes and that is what we need to always keep in mind. No system is perfect. Ultimately, I believe you have freedom to follow any cockamamie religion that you want. But you shouldn’t have the right or freedom to ignore or go against confirmed scientific evidence that by doing so you reduce the quality of life of others–or put their reasonable expectation of health and well-being in doubt or at risk. I know there are a lot of issues within these comments that are complex and haven’t been properly explained. However, the point is reasonable acceptable science should be accepted by the people unless they can provide reasonable cogent arguments why it shouldn’t. “I don’t believe the science because this unreliable or unsubstantiated research suggests that it’s in error.” If you can’t support your objections to the science with arguments of equal or greater strength than the science, you should defer to the reasonable experts.

  14. Jack April 10, 2015 / 9:29 pm

    I apologize my earlier post was truncated. Here is the entire post.

    I do believe there are 2 points I’d like to make here. One, we make people put seat belts on their children to keep them safe, so what’s the problem with vaccines? Don’t worry, people will still figure out how to get around it. So if you are that concerned, die hard anti-vaxers will still find a way to keep their children at risk. It seems that the immigrants that go through channels, get the proper scrutiny and vaccination. People outside the law will do what they do and we will only have so much success reigning them in.

    Secondly, and I admit that this is some part hyperbole and some part my frustration with science deniers. I believe that the science is either reliable or not. In most cases we know. Science that isn’t confirmed should be treated as such. Science that is confirmed should come with an expectation of acceptance by the people who aren’t scientists. We live in a society that strives to be based on rational thinking. This is what the founding fathers wanted and why they carefully separated religion from government. Government was to have the say on these sorts of things, even if the people are going to backlash against it. No one ever said all that government did that was good for the people would be appreciated by all the people.

    Unfortunately, the Government does itself a disservice by making such public and flagrant errors such as letting corporations and oligarchs have excessive power (Citizen’s United, for example). This makes people doubt the credibility and sensibility of those in “legitimate” power. This opens the floodgates for the uninformed, crackpots, and paranoids to make specious claims against the government and any science being debated. The original idea was that the government would be composed of knowledgeable and rational people that saw what was needed based on reliable evidence provided by subject matter expert consensus and legislate for it–despite what some of the people wanted. This is where the science should be leveled toward everyone equally and irrespective of their desire for religious exclusion. There will be mistakes and that is what we need to always keep in mind. No system is perfect. Ultimately, I believe you have freedom to follow any cockamamie religion that you want. But you shouldn’t have the right or freedom to ignore or go against confirmed scientific evidence that by doing so you reduce the quality of life of others–or put their reasonable expectation of health and well-being in doubt or at risk. I know there are a lot of issues within these comments that are complex and haven’t been properly explained. However, the point is reasonable acceptable science should be accepted by the people unless they can provide reasonable cogent arguments why it shouldn’t. “I don’t believe the science because this unreliable or unsubstantiated research suggests that it’s in error.” If you can’t support your objections to the science with arguments of equal or greater strength than the science, you should defer to the reasonable experts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s