In light of the measles outbreak in California, an interesting post was put up at Science 2.0. The essay’s author, Hank Campbell, asks if parents should be jailed for not vaccinating their children. He states that in Marin County, California alone, only 26% of kids are vaccinated and goes on to point to a recent op-ed in USA Today by author Alex Berezow who makes the case that parents who knowingly do not vaccinate their kids should legally liable since by doing so, their unvaccinated kids contribute to a public health crisis.
To refuse to vaccinate is to contribute to violating the rights of another. A virus is a living organism that seeks to survive like any other life form and it will seek out hosts to infect in order to live. According to Ayn Rand, an individual right is a principle defining man’s freedom of action in a social context. She correctly goes on to state that the only fundamental right is the right to one’s life in which life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. Subsequently, people engage in activities to further and enhance their own life. These activities include getting an education, doing things to stay healthy (ex: exercising or regular medical check ups), getting a job and maybe even starting a family.
Ms. Rand also states that if physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution (i.e. government) charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules. When it comes to the anti-vaccine movement what they say is very revealing. Despite events like Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and how that virus strain mutated into a deadlier form killing hundreds of thousands of people, they would (most likely) ridicule such historical evidence since it refutes their claims about vaccines. The anti-vaxxers’ attitude is very similar to Mary Mulligan (i.e. Typhoid Mary) who was quarantined for the rest of her life even though she promised health officials at the time she would not be a food service worker but did so anyway leading to her infecting many more people.
A proper government protects people’s rights and in terms of vaccines and it is why when kids attend school they have to be vaccinated since unvaccinated children pose a threat not only to themselves but to the rights of their fellow students and the school faculty. A child’s immune system is not as well developed as an adult’s, refusing to vaccinate them is tantamount to child abuse since it robs the child of the ability to fight off sickness. For anyone to knowingly refuse to vaccinate oneself and their kids despite concrete evidence that vaccines help ward off contagious, life threatening diseases is tantamount to them saying they not only do not care about their life but could care less about the rights of others. This also includes participating in activities and disseminating information of groups such as the Vaccine Information Network whose information has been thoroughly debunked. The hatred of living if not human life itself ultimately is the basis of anti-vaccine groups.
These reasons alone are why parents who habitually refuse to vaccinate themselves and their kids should be held legally and even criminally liable. Since by doing so, they are really saying they do not care not only for themselves or even the lives of others.