HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In Defense of Vaccines

Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte supports vaccines and has a spirited defense of them.  She writes,

Anti-vaccination cranks make me see red, in no small part because there’s no excuse for the levels of ignorance they demonstrate about the real value of vaccines. It would be more understandable if the invention of the polio vaccination, for instance, was so far in the past that there were no survivors of the disease hanging around being reminders of how terrible it really is. But there are plenty of people who had the disease that are around, suffering the lifelong effects of even the minor cases that would have allowed you to reach middle age after suffering that disease in your youth. I for one am incredibly grateful to have never known anyone with small pox, tetanus or even the . . . mumps my whole life. . . . .

Maybe what bothers me the most is that the opposition to vaccinations tends to play into this knee-jerk Luddite mentality. Not that I don’t think new technologies shouldn’t be carefully examined to see if they do more good than harm, and that things that prove to be problems like cars should be seriously reconsidered. But a lot of people don’t want to do the hard work of taking each new technology and its issues and problems on for itself, and instead just want this general “new is bad/old ways were better” rule that they can apply indiscriminately. . . .  Anti-vaccination crankery doesn’t make much sense outside of this knee-jerk hostility to innovation and science.

The irony here is that scientists really aren’t trying to conquer the imperfect body at all. Vaccination technology actually makes more sense if you realize it came from a place of great respect for the the complexity of life, and the careful study of defenses that had evolved in the body. Which is why I love vaccinations. They work with the pre-existing environment. The real wow factor is that the body responds so well and so predictably to the vaccination. In one sense, it’s a bit alarming that I extended my arm the other day to be shot up with a syringe-full of dead bacteria that would, if alive, kill me pretty . . . dead, but it was no big deal at all, because I trusted my body’s immune system to kick into action and do its job. So who’s the one that’s really trusting nature to do what it does best?

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