Measles Vaccine? Not Me!

That’s because the vaccine didn’t exist when I was a kid. I got the disease instead, leaving me with natural immunity. I think my chums all got it too and it amounted to a few days of discomfort, no big deal. But there must have been some who got it and suffered serious consequences, even death. News just didn’t get around in those days (ca. 1950) like it does today.

It’s terrific that a vaccine now exists, but like all vaccines it entails perverse incentives. When nearly everyone is vaccinated, there is little incentive for an individual parent to get it for his child because the disease can’t spread through a vaccinated population, and at least some incentive not to get it: cost, bother, and a remote chance of ill effects. And if enough parents skip the vaccine, the percentage of vaccinated children may fall low enough to permit the disease to propagate as, in fact, it has begun to do lately in some areas.

The solution for public schools is simple: require vaccination for all entering school children. As long as we have public schools, there have to be rules and this would be a quite sensible rule. For private schools the situation is trickier. Should the government require private schools to require vaccination? I think not. Most parents would have sense enough to keep their kids away from such schools. A no-measles policy would be a selling point for private schools.

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9 thoughts on “Measles Vaccine? Not Me!

  1. Oh lord, an anti-vaxxer. I’m not going to bother giving you the taunting you deserve.

    @Warren. I had the same experience as you, got my immunities the hard way. I don’t remember a big brou-ha-ha about the measles, I remember all the ruckus being about polio. Of course my memory isn’t all that it used to be 😉

  2. Disclaimer: I’m a big proponent of standard vaccinations.

    A bold post, Warren, especially given the shrill pronouncements by Leftist journalists in the media that there is no evidence whatsoever for a vaccination risk. They have seized this moment to attack libertarians and Republicans as anti-science. Again.

    Unfortunately, the Left’s own denial of risks associated with vaccinations is unscientific. Nothing you inject into the body is ever entirely safe. There’s always a trade-off. The argument for vaccines (and it’s a good one) is that side effects are much less common than complications from disease, not that vaccines are harmless.

    Journalists and politicians are lying to your face when they claim that there are no risks associated with vaccinations. This is yet another reason why I am a non-voting libertarian but also a cautious fan of Rand Paul (who at least had the balls to state that there are risks associated with vaccinations and, more importantly, that parents are responsible for their children rather than the US government, an argument that most pundits on both the Left and the Right have never heard).

    It is clear that the decision to vaccinate should be up to parents, but this doesn’t mean that libertarians are OK with unvaccinated children roaming schools.

    Schools, of course, have every right to exclude unvaccinated children, as does Disneyland and other locations. The standard Left-wing response would be that public schools have no right to exclude people, so therefore the government should vaccinate everybody even if some people do not want their children vaccinated. And therein lies the authoritarian nature of the Leftist.

    Yet the logic for a freer, more humane society is quite clear, here, and it doesn’t involve trampling the rights of a small minority. Parents should absolutely have the right to refuse vaccinations for their small children, so long as they realize that this decision will have incredibly drastic social implications for not only their child but themselves as well.

    In a libertarian society vaccination rates would likely be higher, and it would be accomplished without governmental coercion.

  3. @Brandon. As a libertarian do you believe that parents have the right to deny any and all medical treatment to their children? Christian Scientists spring to mind.

    • Woah, woah woah.

      This is a good opportunity to point out where discourse in the general public often goes awry. Observe:

      I just made an argument in favor of individual autonomy over government coercion. Instead of rebutting my argument, a new question emerges (“do you believe that parents have the right to deny any and all medical treatment to their children?”).

      Is everybody clear about what just happened? We went from a discussion about vaccinations to a question about medical treatment. The changing of the subject is a subtle one, but a subtle fallacy is still a fallacy.

      I point this out not to embarrass Dr Amburgey but only to decry what often passes for discourse not only in the public sphere but also in the classroom and in the media. Journalists and college professors commit this fallacy all the time. Libertarians usually take the bait. Conservative not only take the bait, they manage to make themselves look stupid doing it (“I am proud to be white”).

      To answer Dr A’s brand new question: No I do not, though I hope you can see that this question does not deal with the issue of individual autonomy versus government coercion at all.

      • My apologies. I very consciously went to ‘medical treatment’ as the most general & abstract category and total denial as the boundary case. If, as some people do, you believe that parents have the right to deny children any and all medical treatments then there’s no sense in further discourse. If you don’t then a discussion over which treatments, what conditions et cetera can proceed. I would like to continue this discourse later.

        The issue of individual autonomy here is troubling to me. Let me go to extremes again….Are children the property of parents?

        “I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they are a good thing, but I think the parent should have some input. The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children. And it is an issue of freedom and public health.”

        Rand Paul says that children are chattels of parents. You said above that you are a cautious fan of Rand Paul and then (to my mind) mischaracterized what he said. I can link the video if you didn’t see it. Do libertarians in general believe children to be property or is it some subset?

      • If, as some people do, you believe that parents have the right to deny children any and all medical treatments then there’s no sense in further discourse. If you don’t then a discussion over which treatments, what conditions et cetera can proceed. I would like to continue this discourse later.

        Fa sho, fa sho.

        No children aren’t property of parents. I think Paul was making a general point – often found in discussions on TV with sexy airheads – about government power and individual liberty. Paul is trying to get as philosophical as he can while still reaching out to voters in Kentucky and perhaps across the republic.

        So, no, children are not property of parents. Parents, however, are responsible for those kids and the government is not. What is most disturbing to me is the fact that Paul is making a splash for arguing that the federal government does not own American children.

  4. Hm. My views align with Brandon on this one. There are some diseases where the cost of getting the vaccine is outweighed by the benefits. I was born near the equator and received the appropriate vaccines as a toddler.

    It’s harder to justify getting a vaccine for the flu or other milder diseases though. You don’t have to be extremely paranoid about vaccines in order to be against taking them. There is a very real cost to getting vaccinated; time spent, the cost of the vaccine itself, chance of reacting negatively to the vaccine etc etc.

Please keep it civil (unless it relates to Jacques)

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