First, some preempting of some potential and probable responses:
- Yes, I do have children.
- Yes, they are fully vaccinated for their age.
- No, they have not suffered any side effects other than mild fever shortly after the vaccinations.
- No, they are not autistic.
- Yes, I do know an autistic child.
- No, the autism was not caused by vaccines.
- No, I do not work for any government, Big Pharma organisation, health insurance provider or health care provider.
- Yes, my wife does work as a medical assistant at an obstetrics clinic.
- No, vaccines do not cause autism.
- No, mercury does not cause autism.
- No, Thimerasol does not cause autism.
- No, the vaccine schedule does not cause autism.
- Yes, if you don't vaccinate your child you are an idiot (unless there's a medical reason).
OK. With that out of the way let's move on to why I found the response patterns more interesting than the question of mandatory vaccines. I found the responses more interesting because they seemed to fall into one of just a few different categories - sure there was different phrasing, but generally speaking there was not a great deal of variation in the types of response objecting to mandatory vaccination.
- It's the government and do we want the government telling us what we must do when vaccinating or not vaccinating our children, and anyway government is sometimes incompetent or wrong.
- You probably don't have kids because if you did you would not want the government telling you that they must have injections, so you are only saying yes because you don't have kids.
- Slippery slope, slippery slope!
- Parents have a right to choose how to raise and medicate their children.
- Vaccines don't fix everything.
- Vaccines aren't safe, they cause autism etc.
Now, I haven't read the more recent responses so maybe there is a new type that I've missed that doesn't fit into these categories, but generally speaking these are the types I saw as I read through the comments (some more common than others). In addressing these categories hopefully I'll address first, what is wrong with them as objections to compulsory vaccination and second, why I think compulsory vaccinations are needed.
1. It's the government
No, it isn't.
It is, in fact, the entire science based medical community who think vaccinations should be given to children. The government would merely be acting on the current medical understanding of the overwhelming benefit of vaccinations. Let's get this quite clear:
Government does not recommend vaccination - the medical community does.
In this case (compulsory vaccination) government is merely the best placed institution to ensure complete coverage of a population and so government would have to be responsible for compliance.
This response is largely, I believe, down to the hysterical overreaction some people have to governments. As soon as they hear the word government they believe that anything attached to it must be wrong. Well, in this case, it isn't.
Part of a government's responsibility and purpose is to protect citizens from each other when that is necessary. That would mean protecting the "not currently vaccinated" or the "unable to be vaccinated" from the "children whose idiot parents won't have them vaccinated". That means either seperating the "children whose idiot parents won't have them vaccinated" from the rest permanently, or vaccinating those children. Which is better?
Let me make this quite clear again:
It is the government's duty to ensure that my unintentionally unvaccinated child (too young, not medically able to receive vaccines) is protected from your intentionally unvaccinated child (because you're an idiot).
Now, just because government is incompetent or has been wrong or lied about things before does not mean they should not be behind this. Remember - it is not the government who recommends vaccination, it is the science based medical community. Just because government can't ensure that all drivers are insured does not mean they shouldn't be behind a program to ensure that all children are vaccinated. What kind of argument is that? "We can't guarantee this other thing 100% so why bother trying this totally seperate thing at all?"
That's exactly like saying that just because car manufacturers can't make cars that ensure nobody dies in car crashes means they shouldn't bother trying to make them safe at all.
Not to mention the fact that this flatly contradicts the fear of government omnipotence that is sometimes part of this objection anyway - can the government control everything or not?
I don't care that the government might not be able to ensure absolute and total 100% vaccination - I still want it to try so that children don't die.
2. You probably don't have kids
More importantly though, this has absolutely bugger all to do with whether or not someone thinks vaccinations should be compulsory or not. This is nothing more than Jenny McCarthy's (I think it was her anyway) silly argument that mothers know best so screw the copious amounts of scientific evidence.
I think vaccinations should be compulsory because I have kids. I think vaccinations should be compulsory based on the scientific evidence of their effectiveness at combating disease. I think vaccines should be compulsory because they save lives.
This objection (and I did only see it once to be fair) is an epic fail.
3. Slippery slope
In order for someone to argue that compulsory vaccination is the top of a slippery slope they have to show why it is the top of a slippery slope and they have to show a causal mechanism that connects what they think is at the top and what they think is at the bottom.
Simply saying "Well what next? One day compulsory vaccinations the next implanted ID chips with in built locator beacons that transmit your thoughts is what." is not acceptable. This is not the slippery slope argument but the slippery slope fallacy.
Go on tell us. What is compulsory vaccination the top of the slippery slope to and why? Show your working.
4. Parents have a right to choose
To choose what? How their kids might die?
What, exactly, about the parent's right to choose how their child is medicated or vaccinated overrides the child's right to life? The child's right to be free of certain illnesses where that is possible?
What, exactly, makes a parent's uninformed ignorance more important than a child's life?
Remember this, vaccinations are given to children who are too young to decide for themselves. Where this is the case parents are expected to make the decision in the best interests of the child. When a parent is not able to make that decision responsibly, the government steps in (that is why we have laws and organisations to protect children after all people). People make uninformed choices about vaccines because of scaremongering, ignorance and just plain old stupidity. The choice to not vaccinate your child is not a responsible one. It is not in the best interests of the child.
You have a right as a parent to be uninformed, ignorant and stupid. You don't have the right to inflict the consequences of those things on your children. You do not have the right to endanger your children's lives.
You don't have a right as a parent to choose to expose my children to illnesses because you chose not to vaccinate your child.
The government has a duty to protect those citizens who cannot protect themselves and who others will not protect through their negligence. In this case, that may be your children. Tough. Stop being an idiot then.
5. Vaccines don't fix everything
Are you really going to argue that because vaccines don't fix everything we should not try to ensure they are given to everybody because of the things they do prevent (fix, in the terminology of the objection)?
Airbags don't prevent all deaths in car crashes either, does that mean they shouldn't be compulsory in new cars?
6. Vaccines aren't safe
Yes, they really are.
A very small proportion of people have adverse reactions to vaccinations. Yes, tragically some reactions are fatal or debilitating and as a parent my heart aches for people who lose children this way, I can't possibly imagine how devastating that is.
Hopefully as medical science improves and vaccines with it we will be able to identify those at risk of adverse reactions and tailor the vaccination schedule and types to them. The scientific community is already looking at ways to make individually targeted medicines, similar advances in vaccination technology may reduce the chance of allergic reaction.
The potential consequences of adverse side effects are vastly outweighed by the benefits of vaccination right now however. More children die or become severely ill or debilitated from vaccine preventable illness around the world than will die or be injured by vaccine side effects. The risk of not vaccinating is far greater than the risk of vaccinating.
And no, autism is not caused by vaccines. The evidence is overwhelmingly against the hypothesis that vaccines or their ingredients cause autism. I am not going to link every study and paper that shows this - do your own research and do it somewhere other than Generation Rescue and other quack sites. Somewhere like, oh I don't know, real scientific and medical journals.
Just because there is a very small possibility of harm caused by vaccines does not mean they should not be compulsory. Airbags in cars can kill too.
So that's that
I find none of these objections compelling or convincing given the benefits of compulsory vaccination for everybody.
Now as to caveats - clearly vaccination should not be compulsory for those who are medically at risk from them, either through known health issues or because of suffering an adverse reaction to a previous vaccine.
I do not believe we should allow religious exemptions to vaccination. With vaccination you are not simply risking your own child. Why should my child of a different or no religion be put at risk because of your religion? Your right to practise your religious beliefs ends at the point where they conflict with my child's right to good health and their right to be unaffected by your religion.
Further to that, I think that we should stop allowing people to use their religion as an excuse to mistreat their children and deny them potentially life saving medication or health care. Religion is not a free pass for child abuse. Denying children proper medical care is child abuse.
Religion is not an excuse for being an unreasonable, uniformed, uneducated ignorant prick. It might be the reason, but it isn't an excuse.
The long and the short of it is this:
If you're going out in public it is the governments duty, for the protection of others, to ensure that you are vaccinated.
That's what government is supposed to do - protect us.