Everyone knows the battle. Most have taken part in it at some point or the other. Anti-Vax? Pro-Vax? The debate rages on both sides. I would like to share here my opinion on the matter, and try to break it down to some key focal points.
How to read this article
I want to make sure I am understood and heard in this article. I don’t want this to be a raging flame-out, but rather an open, sincere, and mostly neutral place to make a few points and ask a few questions. First I will go into the philosophy of forced health-care decisions and related questions. Next, I hope to use some data from the CDC and other “official” sources directly to ask some serious questions about the world of vaccinations.
What is generally agreed upon
First, let’s layout some of the key points I feel most people agree upon
- We all want to be healthy, and eliminate disease
- We all care about what other’s do in relation to health-care insofar as it effects us. For example, if a person has an incurable or potentially disastrous disease, everyone can agree we want caution in how this person interacts with other people (and hopefully the person infected also cares enough to enact caution)
- We all want to have the freedom of choice. This is a great principle that all nations should uphold, but at the same time we all know the that the boundaries that come with freedom of any choice get fuzzy at best when those free choices impact other people
- Most people agree that freedom of choice with our own bodies should remain sacred
- Most people don’t argue the severity and potentially massive impact some immunizable diseases can have
The philosophy of free choice
Next, I would like to discuss freedom of choice when it comes to our own bodies, and the philosophy behind this freedom. As I mentioned above, most sane and intelligent people agree that freedom of choice — especially that which relates to our own bodies — is a sacred choice that no one should ever be able to violate. “But…” I hear you already thinking… what about when that choice impacts other people? So we now have just defined a gradient of of sanity. Basically, and put in simpler terms: freedom of choice is supported by most, until it impacts other people. So the question here in my mind is where is that line? When is it “too much”? When does freedom of choice become a problem?
How much is too much? For example, is it okay for anyone to choose different forms of body modification? Is it okay for someone else to insist I modify my own body with any form of body modification? No, the line there is probably fairly clear. For example, and just for a moment, let’s pretend for the sake of discussion that we are talking about genital mutilation (of any form). Take for example baby boys; in our world it is still quite common for babies to be circumcised. Religious beliefs aside, this is often done under the guise of decreasing infections. So the data recommends (depending on source) that circumcision generally has many benefits. So why wouldn’t we just circumcise all male infants automatically? Well, benefits or not, there are still the moral implications of modifying someone else’s body without their permission. What if that male child grows up and is upset about the irreversible decision of their parents to modify their body? Are they wrong to be upset? Should it not be their choice to have their genitals mutilated?
So here we are at a catch. Intelligent adults — with data to back their choice — have chosen to apply an irreversible medical procedure to their child in the name of benefit. The question in my mind is to whose benefit? What if the child never was going to have a problem? What if it is something they will regret when they grow older? Should we just tell them to suck-it-up, and that the imposed choice on their body was for the benefit of society? So there are multiple problems with this debate:
- The morality of making a life-altering (or potentially life altering) choice for someone else… even if that person is incapable at the time of making the choice for themselves
- None of us are very good at reading the future, so we can never be fully certain of the “benefit” we are actually providing (or the harm we might cause later on)
- No one can really ever tell the impact such choices have on other people. If you had a future-reading glass ball and you knew that your uncircumcised baby was going to contract HIV — and therefor more likely to spread the disease — would it be more moral to make the decision? Does it even matter? Who is to say when and how the impact on society make the decision finally moral? How many people impacted does it take to make the decision correct? One? Twenty? A million? It is unlikely one, because doesn’t that just make it him against me? What is the correct moral number here? Seriously… in the face of science, how do we come up with this figure?
- What happens when the infant in question is one of the 0.2% to 0.6% of babies who end up having serious complications from the operation itself. Does this make the decision less moral? Is it ever moral to gamble with someone else’s life?
What are the problems with this line of thinking? In my mind they are three-fold. 1) We act in the hopes that the decisions we impose on other people will hopefully be a benefit, but we can not (in our current state of medical science advancement) guarantee that it will be a benefit (for a moral majority). 2) When does the risk to benefit ratio (when imposing a medical procedure on someone else) make sense? When is it moral? When is it okay? The problem here? No one has an answer to that question… in reality it is always a roll of the dice with the hope that we are imposing the correct decisions on other people. 3) Where is the line between your child and mine? Between the impact to society (i.e. paying for antibiotics, kidney transplants, etc…) and the choice?
Danger, Will Robinson!
The problem lies in the unknown. We can not ever know (currently) that our imposed health-choices on other people actually will be a benefit. In fact, we can not even describe what benefit here even is, where the moral and social lines of that benefit lie, and what happens when things go wrong. So my question is, why are we forcefully navigating such dangerous waters? Why are we rolling the dice on other people’s lives, when we can not even define what benefit means, who is benefiting, and why?
Yeah… but you are just full of shit… vaccines are OBVIOUSLY a benefit to “everyone” — (strike that )— “the majority”.
Let me ask you a question: WHAT and WHO defines “the majority”? Again, is this one person? Is this two? Ten? One hundred? We can not now, nor will we ever be able as a people to decide where “the majority” actually rests morally. Yet daily governments and advocacy groups everywhere pretend they can — all the while with this pretend data-backed argument that they can. At what, and at whose expense?
I just want a single question accurately, completely, and precisely answered: When is imposing any operation on another person’s body moral? When is it not?
When that question can be accurately, completely, and precisely answered I feel the vaccine debate will be a lot less heated.
Numbers don’t lie
Lets take a single case, and look at the MRR vaccine (a very common vaccine that is generally considered safe). The CDC itself reports that 1 in 3000 to 4000 children have a reaction to the vaccine resulting in febrile seizures. This is not the only adverse side-effect, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s stick with this single statistic.
Now, let’s break this down to a percentage (and for the sake of the pro-vaxxers we will stick to the conservative side of the numbers — which by the way is generally a bad idea with any health related choice). This figure results in 0.03333333333333333333% of all children to get the vaccine are known to have this adverse side-effect (again, not the only side-effect).
Now, let’s look at the numbers for disease impact. The CDC reports “outbreaks” to the tune of hundreds (yes, that is correct, hundreds. Not thousands, not millions… hundreds). Let’s take the worse outbreak in the past few years of recorded data and look at the numbers for this. By far the worst outbreak in the past eight years of currently recorded data was in 2014, where there were 667 reported cases of the measles in the US (with no indication in this data about how many of those were fatal or life-altering).
Now lets work these numbers into some useful figures. The US Census Bureau reports that there was an estimated resident population of 319,768,258 people in the US at the end of 2014. Apply that 0.03333333333333333333% of people that we know statistically will have their lives drastically impacted by adverse side-effects from the vaccine itself and we come up with a whooping 106,589 people in the US (very roughly 233,333,333 million people if applied globally)! Wait… hold the phone. So we are willingly and knowingly seriously impacting the lives of more (remember, this is only a single side-effect of a single vaccine we are calculating) than 10,589 thousand (233,333,333 million if every government had their way) people when the impact of the disease is 667 (14,601 globally) total?
How I ask does this make sense? Is this that “majority” benefit we were discussing? We are willingly and knowingly as a society destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of people (keep in mind the impact to parents and families from these “low-risk” side-effect cases) to save how many? Who is the majority? Where is the benefit? Who is drawing the line?
This isn’t all
These numbers are only from a single side-effect of a single vaccine. Dozens of vaccines are now REQUIRED by governments around the world before the age of one. When the data as reported by our own trusted governments and data collection agencies reports that a combined millions of people have their lives adversely affected every year (in the US alone) be a single vaccine… are we really making moral choices? Are we really making beneficial choices? Who is befitting? Surely not those 106,589 families (who we don’t even take care of as a society… that are left on their own to suffer)…
So what amounts to social benefit? What would those numbers be without vaccinations?
This is a harder one to have an answer to. I don’t have good data for what the impact would be without the vaccines. Still… if we had such data, and if we could even answer what amounts to a social benefit, and if we could even define who the majority was, and if science knew for absolute certain 100% what would happen across generations, and if testing was positively thorough (whew! what a lot of “ifs” we have there), still who would, or could be able to play God, and impose a health decision on a family that might very well destroy the rest of their lives? What did we miss? What didn’t we think of when dealing with the bodies of billions of people? Would you be willing to make a decision, knowing that potentially millions of families globally would have their lives destroyed? Could you sleep at night?
Ignorance is bliss
I have never once had an argument with a pro-vaxxer without hearing, at least once, a comment about the “stupidity” and “ignorance” of those “stupid” anti-vaxxers. Is there not a crazy amount of ignorance in ignoring these figures? Is there not a crazy amount of stupidity in thinking one can impose potentially life altering health operations on millions of families globally without any recourse or impact? Have you ever heard of support programs that are paid for by society (or the vaccine manufactures) for these adversely affected families? I feel it really does boil down to a God complex and a severe ignorance on the part of anyone who believes that it is okay to legally and forcefully impose health decisions on other people. Are you ignorant?
What about the future?
Now that I am done writing this, I want to tell you a little secret: I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti bullshit. I am anti the crappy testing procedures for vaccines (especially with the phenomenal potentially race-destructive possibilities of not thoroughly testing across generations). I am anti ignoring the morals of such imposition on billions of people. I am anti pretend that it helps the masses, that we can pretend we understand the impact (in either direction). I am anti “I know for certain what benefit it is and who the majority is”. I am anti screw the families who are effected… they are on their own and just have to deal with it.
I am pro properly made and properly tested vaccine, backed by advanced science, with effect numbers that make sense. I am pro properly and thoroughly tested vaccines (with testing across generations). I am pro science (that IS NOT there yet) that produces healthy and positive impact vaccines. I am pro helping families as a society, that are adversely effected by health operations gone wrong. I am pro vaccines that actually effectively protect against a disease 100% (so you don’t need to blame me for not vaccinating my child). Science is great… when properly used and applied.
But most of all, I am pro keeping health choices personal, sacred, and never, ever, in the hands, hearts, or minds of our governments, our scientists, our teachers, or anyone other than the person who is having a needle inserted into their blood stream.
The morality of my perspective might be questioned. All I ask is for the lines to be drawn, and for us not to pretend we know what is moral, until science proves without any hint of a doubt that we know exactly who is benefiting, what the impact is, who counts as “the majority”, and what we do as a society to support our neighbors when something goes terribly wrong.
Sorry folks, the science is just not there yet. If we could all spend a little more energy and money on medical science, testing, and supporting the ill, we would all benefit a lot more as a people in the long run then pretending we are God, and immorally imposing health decisions on millions of to-be broken families.
I will always remain 100% pro-choice with health decisions. If me not getting a vaccine for my child is a problem for you, I am not to blame; science and our lack of focus on decent health-care is to blame. Let’s change our perspective, stop arguing, stop forcing health choices on people, respect our fellow creatures, and together work towards a positively disease free future.