By Will Arthur | USA
Recently doctors discovered that an Egyptian mummy (estimated to have died 2,000 years ago) died of bone cancer, in the mid 1300s tens of millions of people died from the Bubonic Plague, and when the colonization of America first began more Native Americans were killed by diseases from European immigrants (primarily smallpox) than any other source of death. These three instances are just a small fraction of all the disease and sickness humans have encountered, and these examples show that humans have been encountering disease and sickness as long as we have existed. Wouldn’t it be nice, however, if we had miracle potions that warded off deadly sicknesses? Well, we actually do have possible “miracle potions” that have the ability to fight off deadly illnesses, and they are called vaccines.
Today, smallpox is nearly eradicated from society and can only be found in small samples at two labs: one in Russia and the other in Atlanta, Georgia. If someone were to look at history as a whole though, they would see that smallpox plagued humanity for a great deal of time. In ancient times smallpox deaths were reduced by a technique called variolation (first used in Asia). These techniques of variolation greatly evolved when Edward Jenner created the first vaccine for smallpox in the year 1796. After about two centuries of advancement, vaccines have been used to rid the world of smallpox and many other deadly illnesses such as polio, tetanus, yellow fever, measles, etc.
If we look at all the accomplishments and diseases vaccines have been used to conquer there should be nothing but praise for them. In reality, however, the public news is filled with controversial articles on vaccines. A study by the Pew Research Center found that nine percent of people believe that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is unsafe, and seven percent of people do not know if the MMR vaccine is safe. This data shows that a significant portion (sixteen percent) of people have an uncertainty/distrust of vaccines. Why would anybody not find an advancement like vaccines (that prevent harmful diseases) safe?
There are many reasons why people believe that vaccines are negative in today’s society: medical studies and anecdotal reports being two major examples. These reasons are up for debate on if they are really justifiable reasons to view vaccines as unsafe because there is much disagreement on how true the studies and reports are. If we look at how the industry of vaccines is run today, however, we will find that there is a great deal of government involvement. This government involvement is an opening for controversy and distrust to creep into the industry. This controversy and distrust in turn negatively affect the potential of vaccines.
In America, legislation for vaccines has existed nearly as long as vaccines have. After Edward Jenner’s vaccination for smallpox was implemented into society and found to be successful the U.S. Vaccine Agency was established in 1813. The objective of this agency was to persuade the public to start getting vaccinated to protect public health. As time progressed the government transitioned from tactics of persuasion to tactics of coercion. There have been many acts of legislation since 1813 including (but not limited to) The Biologics Control Act in 1902 that created a board to take the licenses of makers and sellers of vaccines (now done under the FDA), every state having laws that require students (of public or private schools) to be vaccinated (with few exceptions that must be okayed by local governments), and The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 which shifted liability from vaccine makers and to the federal government (the taxpayers). Tactics of coercion can be found in the consequences that an individual faces when they choose to not follow the legislation (typically a fine or prison time).
All the legislation that exists today allows the government to effectively control the industry of vaccines. The FDA can decide who will be allowed to create and distribute the vaccines, chosen vaccine companies are given an endless market of consumers (the students) from the state governments, and vaccine companies are not responsible for any injuries or harm their customers face. This coercive and socialist approach to any industry takes away the motivation to meet customer standards and is a breeding ground for fraud, misuse of vaccines, and citizen distrust in the industry.
If the government instead took a laissez-faire approach to the vaccine industry and let the free market work its course vaccine companies would have to meet customer standards to make a profit. They would have to competitively engage in business to persuade (not coerce or force) customers and build trust that their vaccine is effective, helpful, and better than the competition’s product. Companies would also be motivated to advance and make their vaccines safer so they can avoid lawsuits from injured customers. In this scenario, citizens would be able to weigh the pros and cons of vaccination without the worry of consequences (fines and jail/prison time) for making the wrong decision.
With the higher degree trust and technological advancement derived from a capitalist (free market) system, more people would be likely to decide to use vaccinations to fight deadly sicknesses: than the other option of using the government to force people (with the threat of consequences) to get vaccinated and creating a distrust between the vaccine industry and citizens. This higher likelihood of people using vaccines and those vaccines being more effective would eradicate illnesses much faster and make communities safer: a sign that vaccines are approaching their potential to aid humanity.