Korobov: Don't mandate vaccinations


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Despite the overwhelming news cycle this past week, ranging from ISIS burning a Jordanian pilot alive to the Super Bowl, I was surprised to see that many of the headlines had instead focused on a different issue. The statements made by several notable Republican presidential hopefuls, including Rand Paul and Chris Christie, regarding vaccines spurred a major debate.

Paul and Christie had essentially stated that parents should have some level of choice in deciding whether to vaccinate their children. Viewed through the lens of a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that stated there were 102 confirmed cases of measles across 14 states, the comments drew criticism from many who believe vaccines should be mandated throughout the country without exception.

The sharp and widely reported scolding of Paul and Christie surprised me.

Most people who have been vaccinated can agree that the process is a fairly intimate affair — you sit down and watch a stranger stick a needle in your arm. My colleague, Marcus Brown, wrote this week that the issue of vaccination is “not an issue of parents’ rights.”

Yet, how are we supposed to treat the act of forcing parents to undergo something as invasive as sticking something in their children’s veins as not an issue of rights? Paul stated in an interview with CNBC that “the State doesn’t own your children,” and he is right. It doesn’t.

Those who promote mandatory vaccinations imply that members of the general public are too dumb to know what’s best for them. The numbers refute this assumption. California, for example, is a state in which parents are provided an option. The 2014-15 school year found only 2.67 percent of parents opting for the “personal-belief” exemption. Brown’s column proposed that vaccines are 100 percent safe and any health concerns are based on a “misconception.” Many proponents of mandatory vaccinations often ignore that while vaccines are largely safe, there have been cases in which vaccines were dangerous.

While contemporary science says vaccinations are overwhelmingly safe, there is some indication that in rare cases, complications may arise. Even the CDC admits that with Guillain-Barré Syndrom the “exact reason for this association is unknown.” Given this, it doesn’t make sense to humiliate parents who just want to keep their children safe, even if the risk of harm is miniscule. It’s even more wrong to use government authority to force vaccinations on them.

Advocates of mandatory vaccinations often make it seem as if the refusal to vaccinate will lead to millions of fatalities. However, before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, the mortality rate for measles had already fallen drastically to 0.00015 because of the introduction of Vitamin A treatment. To put that in perspective, the 2010 mortality rate for the flu, according to the CDC, is higher at 0.0081. Thus, the threat of millions of measles-related deaths is totally exaggerated.

Allowing choice for parents in vaccinations is not dangerous and does represent a parent’s right. To me, the criticism that Paul and Christie received on this issue is an example of hysteria not founded in reason.

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