Saturday, December 7, 2013
Reason.com's Ronald Bailey raises the question of whether parents should have the right to refuse to vaccinate their children. Bailey thinks not, arguing that people who do so effectively "assert that they have the right to 'swing' their microbes at other people."
A significant proportion of Americans believe it is perfectly all right to put other people at risk of the costs and misery of preventable infectious diseases. These people are your friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens who refuse to have themselves or their children vaccinated against contagious diseases.
There would be no argument against allowing people to refuse vaccination if they and their families would suffer alone the consequences of their foolhardiness. It would be their right to forego misery-reducing and life-preserving treatments. But that is not the case in the real world.
The University of Pittsburgh’s Project Tycho database, launched last week, quantifies the prevalence of infectious disease since 1888 in the United States. Drawing on Project Tycho data, a November 28 New England Journal of Medicinearticle concluded that vaccinations since 1924 until now prevented 103 million cases of polio, measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis A, diphtheria, and pertussis. While the NEJM article did not calculate the number of deaths avoided as a result of vaccination, one of the study’s authors estimates that number is between three and four million.