Unclean! Unclean!

Megan McArdle’s post on the resurgence of measles due to a lack of vaccinations prompted me to think about the modern moral and legal ramifications of someone choosing to go about unvaccinated.

When a person becomes infected with a lethal contagious disease, the disease microbe turns their body into a biological warfare factory churning out billions of weapons which automatically seek out and attack other people. If a person infected themself on purpose and then went about their daily life, we would regard it as a form of lethal violence against everyone they came in contact with. How then should we regard those who fail to take simple, cheap and low-risk steps to prevent such an occurrence by accident?

Before we understood that microbes cause disease and developed techniques to stop them, we regarded infection as an act of God for which no human could be held accountable. Now we do understand how to prevent infections and we do hold people accountable for not doing so. If food or health care providers do not follow basic sanitation procedures to prevent the reproduction and spread of microbes they face civil and criminal penalties. It doesn’t matter if they did not intend to infect people. It only matters that they did not take precautions against it. Why should we hold unvaccinated individuals to a lower standard?

I think we only did so in the past because we lacked the ability to determine if individual A infected individual B. Now we can. It’s only a matter of time before someone seeks legal redress for the preventable death of a loved one based on the premise that a voluntarily unvaccinated individual was negligent.

We might even reach the point where society demands that people who may turn into biological hazards without warning visually distinguish themselves. Why should a parent have to unknowingly expose an unvaccinated infant to an unvaccinated adult in a public setting? An unvaccinated person is hundreds of times more likely to carry a lethal disease than a vaccinated one. Shouldn’t such an individual have to notify others of the risk they pose?

We don’t think about such matters because vaccination has made fatal communicable illnesses rare and freakish events. As more and more people in the developed world shun vaccinations and more people from the unvaccinated developing world arrive here without disease screening, we will see more and more outbreaks. When people see their children die from an easily preventable cause, they will get mad.

10 thoughts on “Unclean! Unclean!”

  1. Dan From Madison,

    Yeah, I’ve started to advise relatives to ask people if they’re vaccinated before they let them in close contact with the families infant children. I’m afraid this will go on until a large outbreak kills enough children.

  2. It has been several years since we were faced with the decision to immunize our kids or not. I cannot remember what the risk was, but iirc there were some bad reactions to some of the new immunizations and some kids got seriously sick (I believe permanently injured) and of course the lawsuits were flying, etc. etc. But the ratio of these kids who got hurt was extremely low so we decided to immunize. I would think that the number of kids who got hit by cars yearly is lower than those hurt by these new vaccines.

    I think the new immunizations blast kids with protections for many diseases at once and that may have been the issue. When I was young (born 1968) we had many different immunizations. And there was no choice. Now we have a measles outbreak in Milawaukee. Coming soon to a town near you.

  3. Talking to my wife this morning the vaccine was called MMR, for Measles, Mumps and Rubella. Apparently there was some talk of it causing autism in some kids, but I don’t know if it ever panned out. Many parents my wife knows decided to not give their kids the vaccine because of this.

  4. Unlike the Smallpox vaccine, the vaccines you speak of are not 99% effective. If everybody in the world were vaccinated on the same day (by force when/where required), over a billion people would discover the vaccine did not work.

    We have already suffered a major catastrophe because super bugs have evolved that are immune to antibiotics because antibiotics have been used carelessly. Obviously forcing every one to use semi-effective vaccines will lead to a new catastrophe in which super bugs evolve that are immune to the defensive weapons created by these vaccines. These diseases will evolve to become much more harmful than they were in the past. Indeed, this evolution is taking place right now because these diseases are much more harmful because they are much more feared than they were 60 years ago.

  5. There is no evidence that Autism is related to vaccines. I vaccinated my kids and they are all fine. So is everyone else I know and their friends etc. If it was because of vaccines more kids would have it. Here are some of your risk factors for autism:
    * Breech presentation of the baby
    * Low Apgar score, an index used to evaluate the condition of a newborn five minutes after birth
    * Birth before 35 weeks of pregnancy
    * Parental history of schizophrenia-like psychosis
    * Parental history of affective disorder, which includes some psychoses, depression, and bipolar disorder

    Education is the key. Most vaccines today are heat killed and not live vaccines. Don’t just sit back as a parent and listen to some crazy people saying this will do harm to you or your kids if you vaccinate them. If it was true at all, the whole population would have Autism etc. We have more illegal immigrants than ever not vaccinating themselves or their kids that enter our public schools ( and all public areas) everyday and that right there makes me want to vaccinate my kids. That could be one reason why these diseases are surfacing again too. Illegals entering our country not being vaccinated and then people who are not vaccinating their kids get it too. Get a grip, save a life, and vaccinate already!

  6. Sol Vason,

    We have already suffered a major catastrophe because super bugs have evolved that are immune to antibiotics because antibiotics have been used carelessly.

    The bugs aren’t super, they’re plan old fashion microbes who’ve evolved around the biochemistries exploited by the antibiotics. They’re no more dangerous than any other microbes. They’re exactly as lethal as the pre-antibiotic microbes.

    Obviously forcing every one to use semi-effective vaccines will lead to a new catastrophe in which super bugs evolve that are immune to the defensive weapons created by these vaccines.

    Microbes will eventually evolve around the vaccines but they won’t be anymore lethal than the versions now. Most microbes both bacteria and viruses are to diverse or fast evolving to vaccinate against. That’s why we have to make a new flu vaccine every year. Fortunately, the most lethal and easy to transmit diseases are small stable viruses.

    In short, defending against infectious diseases doesn’t make them more lethal. It just creates selection pressure for them to evolve around the defense. If the converse was true, the human immune system would drive the evolution of progressively more lethal diseases. In truth, diseases grow milder and more parasitic or symbiotic the longer they infect humans.

  7. Most vaccines do not offer 100% protection. Even if your child is vaccinated he or she is still at risk in communities with a significant proportion of unvaccinated people. Here’s how it works:

    Say a vaccine offers 90% protection (i.e. a vaccinated child that is exposed to the pathogen has a 10% chance of getting the disease despite being vaccinated). When EVERYBODY is vaccinated, 90% protection is more than enough to ensure that a single outbreak cannot spread and cause an epidemic. The disease gets rare. Your kid’s chances of getting sick decline by far more than 90%.

    But when your kid is in an environment that’s rife with pathogens -such as when your neighbors refuse to vaccinate their own children- that 90% protection is just that, 90% protection.

    The additional immunity gained by living among vaccinated neighbors is called herd immunity. It’s also the reason nobody bothers to write virals for Macs (>90% of computers is “immune” to Mac-viruses, so it’s very hard for a Mac-virus to spread exponentially).

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