Is making vaccines mandatory in line with our constitutional rights of self-determination, freedom of thought and physical integrity?
This is probably one of my most controversial posts. Still, I am choosing to address this highly charged topic, at the risk of losing some of you, because not speaking up about what I consider one of the greatest assaults to our constitutional human rights (self-determination, freedom of thought and physical integrity to just name a few) in our modern times would not be good for my self-esteem, 5th chakra and my thyroid (yes, they are all connected to the courage to speak your truth).
I am talking about the global discussion to make vaccines mandatory.
This discussion is not new. Ever since vaccines were invented somewhere in the beginning of the 19th century, there have been attempts to force them upon people. The argument has always been the same: a vaccination rate of about 95% is needed to protect a population from the spread of infectious disease. I am not going to address the claims that are made pro or contra vaccines here - the point of this article is NOT to favor one side or the other. In my opinion this is a choice everybody needs to make for themselves based on their own research and philosophy of life. THIS is in fact what this article is about: The right of choice vs. making vaccines mandatory.
Personally, if there’s a subject that triggers me even more than the promotion of veganism as the healthiest and holiest way to eat (read here why eating animal foods can be healthy, sustainable and even ethical), it is this "making vaccines mandatory" debate.
Under the umbrella of “public health”, peoples’ worst fears are triggered in an often manipulative way and they are being polarized into the “responsible” ones who are “pro” vaccination on the one hand, and the “stupid, irresponsible” ones, who are “anti” vaccination on the other hand. Those latter ones pose a public health risk and should be brought to senses - if needed with force. I am sorry, but as a German, this kind of logic sounds far too familiar with me... Even if it is uncomfortable to acknowledge, but it is a totalitarian view that ignores the freedom and right to make up my own mind based on available information and to choose what I deem to be best for myself and my family.
Yes, there have been recent measles outbreaks, and 35 people have died (in 2016) in Europe of this disease. 35 of more than 11.000 infected (= 0.3%), which clearly shows that in the big majority of cases this common childhood disease is benign (it actually gets more complicated if you only get it as an adult, which is more likely in the case you actually have been vaccinated). Of course every death is one too much, but we have to put things into perspective: Every year about 500.000 ! people are dying from air pollution in Europe, worldwide this number climbs to 5.5 million! If public health really was such a concern, we would first have to make the usage of bicycles, public transport and/or of environmental-friendly cars compulsory, rather than vaccines. We would not allow non-organic farming or sugar, leave alone re-approve substances proven to be endocrine disrupting, like it has just been done in Europe. In reality however, those in favor of organic farming and bicycles have to try to convince people with good arguments. This is what should be done in the vaccine debate as well, but is usually not.
I absolutely agree that there is a lot of misleading information being spread in anti-vaccination groups. But the same can be said for pro-vaccination groups. Claiming that simply pumping a lot of vitamin C into a body will protect it from disease is as illusionary and dangerous as claiming that injecting a vaccine into a body will do that job. Who judges which information is correct and which is not? Science? So-called experts (I have written before about how most science is highly biased these days, read more here)? Sorry, when it comes to MY body, I am the ultimate decision maker. “Science” and “experts” can and should support me in the process by condensing their study results in easy-understandable arguments. But ultimately, I am responsible for making my own decision. If you feel my decision is “wrong”, help me see it, too, by giving me good arguments as to why you think that way, and maybe I'll reconsider my decision.
It is often overlooked that those who are not just swallowing the “public health” argument (like myself), are simply asking valid questions, pointing out incongruences, doubts and concerns. We haven’t necessarily made up our mind yet, but we want to understand both sides of the argument before arriving at our own conclusion. This is being self-responsible, and a trait we should encourage rather than discourage in people. Yet as soon as we dare to ask questions or challenge the established status quo, we are immediately stigmatized, ridiculed and even called names, such as idiot, criminal, stupid or troll. Reminds me of Galileo...
The reason I get so upset by this whole topic is not so much the content of the discussion, but the fact that no discussion is allowed.
Even smart and sensible people who are so concerned with “freedom of choice”, “tolerance” and "respect" in other areas of life completely disregard those values when it comes to the vaccine question. And that is what makes me furious. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I consider myself fairly intelligent and just like with veganism my mind is able to identify a lot of inaccurate and misleading information being spread also in the vaccine debate (on both sides!), starting from the mere idea that vaccines actually were the main reason infectious diseases declined or that vaccines actually protect people (or are the most effective way to do so). Looking at the history of many diseases, we can see that many of them declined long before the vaccines were introduced – due to improved hygiene, nutrition and medical care. And outbreaks have been reported in highly vaccinated populations as well (for example, there was a huge smallpox epidemic in England in 1871, while vaccination had been made mandatory with risk of imprisonment already in 1867).
Just as an illustration of how manipulative this whole discussion is, I show you the following two graphs. Both are similar, but by zooming in / extending the shown timeline the message completely changes.
The first one is from England/Wales and shows the measles mortality rate since 1838. As you can clearly see, it declined long before the vaccine was introduced. Attention: This doesn't necessarily mean that INCIDENCE declined, but it means that people didn't die from the disease anymore (again, probably due to better nutrition and medical care). Obviously, this graph is used by anti-vaccine groups.
The second graph is from the US and shows the measles incidence rate since 1928. Looking at this graph, it seems to communicate the opposite: once the vaccine was introduced, INCIDENCE fell. This graph is obviously used by pro-vaccine groups. However, if you took the first graph above, and simply zoomed in on the years 1928+ (leaving out everything before), you can see how they are very similar - but how the message is completely different. It also raises the question whether it's incidence or mortality rates that we should be looking at... because maybe it's not at all that desirable to eradicate incidence (there seems to be some value in going through those childhood diseases), while it obviously is to prevent death... Again, I am just asking questions here...
My point is that the same (or similar) information can be manipulated to show exactly the result I would want it to show. I know similar practices from my time in the pharma industry, but most people are not aware of this kind of manipulation and have an astonishing faith in science (read more here). The message is: Always be critical, especially in highly biased discussions.
Even if it was true that vaccines helped to decrease the incidence of infectious disease and that all of the 14 diseases children are currently vaccinated for before age 6 were truly dangerous, I personally think that people have to be allowed to have different life philosophies. Oftentimes those that don’t want to vaccinate have a completely different understanding of disease, viewing it mainly as an expression of the soul, that actually holds important lessons to learn, rather than an enemy that must be eradicated or prevented at all cost (which is usually a futile attempt anyways, since the message will then find another gateway to express itself, usually another symptom or disease). It is a view that is founded in love and not in fear. Many of you reading this probably cannot relate to this perspective, but that doesn’t make it less valid. Live and let live, remember?
My point is that even considering making vaccines obligatory is anti-constitutional and the fact that many people would vote for it is very concerning. I am glad that countries like Sweden take the lead in protecting the constitutional rights such as self-determination, freedom of thought and physical integrity by opposing mandatory vaccination and I hope that other countries will follow.