indri Schaelicke | United States
Undoubtedly one of the greatest medical innovations in human history is the invention of the vaccine. The science of vaccination was first seriously pioneered by Edward Jenner in 1796, when he noticed that milkmaids who had caught cowpox before became immune to smallpox later. To test his theory that humans could develop immunity, Jenner took pus from a milkmaid with cowpox and put it into a cut in the arm of an 8-year-old boy. Six weeks later, he inoculated the same boy with smallpox, observing that he did not catch smallpox. Based on his findings, he was able to develop the first vaccines.
Are vaccines actually safe?
Two centuries later, and vaccine technology has advanced incredibly. Vaccines are much safer than during Edward Jenner’s time when patients were deliberately cut and treated with the disease using potentially unclean equipment. There are many standards doctors are held to when administering a vaccine that did not exist 200 years ago. Immediate allergic reactions that can be treated with common medications occur in fewer than one in a million cases. So just why do people believe that vaccines are dangerous and may even cause Autism?
Misinformation makes it very difficult for parents to separate fact from fiction. Sites such as vaclib.org, ageofautism.com, sanevax.org, among others, peddle their anti-vaccine propaganda, often riddled with scientifically inaccuracies and falsities to uninformed parents in an effort to push their agenda. These organizations take advantage of parents’ innate desire to do what is best for their children.
A common fear among parents is that vaccination increases the risk of autism. The idea became popular after a 1997 study by British Surgeon Andrew Wakefield was published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. The study suggested that the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine was at fault for the increasing rates of autism in British children. After careful examination by peers and experts, the study has been discredited for the multitude of serious procedural errors, undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, and ethical violations. Wakefield lost his medical license and the study was retracted from the publication.
Despite the glaring issues with the study, the hypothesis was taken seriously. Several other major studies were conducted, seeking to verify the conclusion he had drawn. None of these follow up studies found a correlation between any vaccine and the increased likelihood of developing autism. While the true cause of autism remains unknown, recent research provides evidence that autism develops before a baby is even born and can receive vaccinations. Several studies have observed symptoms of autism in children before they have even received the MMR vaccine. The conclusions drawn by these studies overwhelmingly indicates that vaccination and autism disorders have little to no causation relationship.
Based on the reasoning that vaccination carries a very low risk of seriously harmful side effects, many pro-vaccine advocates argue that vaccination should not be mandatory. However, there is no greater threat to personal liberty than a government mandate that certain substances be consumed.
Freedom means choice
It is crucial to realize that every law is enforced at the threat of violence. The branches of government work together to create and enforce the law- the legislative branch, with the consultation of the massive government bureaucracy, crafts the laws that govern the nation. However, laws are no more than words on a piece of paper until they are backed by force. The executive branch of any government is tasked with executing the law, meaning that when it is broken, the police will initiate force and arrest the person.
If refusing to receive a vaccination is a criminal offense, it authorizes the use of violence against those who are simply choosing to preserve their own bodily autonomy. Can freedom really exist if choosing not to ingest a substance is met with aggression by government?
While vaccination should not be made a legal obligation, businesses and school districts should be able to require being vaccinated of their students and employees. In this way, a sort of contract is created between the two parties. In the business example, the company is allowing the employee to work for compensation, so long as they are vaccinated. If the employee does not agree to these terms, they are voluntarily forgoing the opportunity to earn income. In a world where government mandates did not dictate how we are allowed to use our bodies, voluntary interactions would ensure that the natural rights possessed by every individual, including the right to bodily autonomy and individual sovereignty would be respected.
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