The “experts” tell us that vaccination is the cornerstone of public health and that we are indebted to it for reducing disease and death from childhood infectious diseases. Who are these “experts”? They are doctors, scientists and administrators who’ve been educated to “know” vaccines are indispensible for good health and longevity. Have they been schooled at all in alternative health modalities? Rarely. Are they aware of what transpired in the days when the childhood infections they vaccinate against were more common? Before today’s doctors were born, now-unused treatments cured childhood diseases, including polio. Medical research was still mostly conducted without the preconceived bias that vaccines can do no wrong. But, even though vaccination was in its infancy, the potential economic boon to vaccine makers was becoming evident and, seeing technological achievements never before imagined, society began to believe that man could solve everything.
In his article, ‘Mumps outbreak in Christian group raises ethical alarms’, published on his Vancouver Sun blog Aug 28, 2008, Douglas Todd discussed the ethics of refusing vaccinations. Mumps outbreaks which had begun in the Maritimes in 2007 had reached the Fraser Valley of BC. A religious community whose members refuse vaccination was the focal point for the latest outbreak. Todd quoted ethicist Michael McDonald of UBC as saying that limitation of religious freedom is justified in order to protect the health and safety of others, especially children. And, of course, the common refrain is that those who refuse vaccinations gain “herd immunity” from the vaccinated majority and therefore, get a “free ride”.
But if the unvaccinated get a “free ride”, obviously the vaccinated must pay a price. How ethical is it to promote vaccination without being clear about the possible consequences? Do those who administer vaccines ever supply all the details? Were the parents of children who were vaccinated with mumps vaccine twenty or more years ago told that their children could become infected with mumps in their teens or young adulthood and be sicker with it and at greater risk from complications than they would have been if they’d become infected as children? Were the parents told that, in order to gain lifelong immunity to infectious disease, they and their children must either be willing to accept the risk and expense of childhood vaccination and boosters for life or forego vaccination and be exposed to the disease as outbreaks occur throughout their lives?
Vaccination is an invasive medical procedure which carries risks. According to Canadian Medical Law – Introduction for Physicians, Nurses and Other Health Care Professionals, Canadian Medical Law grants every individual the right to information on material risks and the fundamental right of persons to be free from unwanted physical interference. Medical care is wrongful and a ‘battery’ unless the patient has given consent to it.” Legal consent implies consent given with full knowledge and understanding of the risks involved.
In addition to neglect to inform, how ethical is it to mandate one paradigm of health maintenance to the exclusion of another? While classroom time is used to promote school-based vaccination programs, any vaccine information other than that from pro-vaccine sources is disallowed in schools. And how ethical is it to administer vaccinations where recipients are afforded no privacy as is the case in these settings?
How ethical is it to bully parents to have their children vaccinated but refuse to admit a vaccine has caused injury when it obviously has? How ethical is it to promote vaccinations to the hilt, yet provide no compensation when adverse events occur? And how ethical is it to provide no means by which parents can easily report or access reports about vaccine injury, as is the case in Canada? Finally, other than the odd murmer in a medical journal – does anyone mention that, by vaccinating the majority, the relative preponderance of pathogens can and has changed such that more vigorous strains replace those that have been vaccinated against?
It WOULD BE ethical to allow parents and others to accept or refuse vaccinations freely, without bullying, without restriction of information and without a holier-than-thou attitude that the “experts” are the only people who are able to “know” what’s best for others. As for herd immunity – this term was first used in the days before there was a measles vaccine, a time when parents were fearless enough to deliberately expose their children to the virus at “measles parties”. It was noticed that, during measles outbreaks, once a certain relatively high rate of infection had been reached, measles infection ceased. I wonder if the “experts” “know” that.
Canadian Medical Law – Introduction for Physicians, Nurses and Other Health Care Professionals, by Barney Sneiderman, John O. Irvine, Philip H. Osborne – Second Edition, 1995. Carswell Thompson Professional Publishing.