In Fact, It’s Way Past Time. These are Not Just Personal Decisions
Polio is Back. Can You Believe That?
Polio, which we defeated in this country in the 1950’s and which was only occurring naturally in two underdeveloped countries in recent years has returned to the United States. Seems unimaginable. The vaccine is exceptionally effective, has absolute minimum risks, and widely available at little or no cost. Herd immunity across the US has further protected us all.
So, what happened? Anti-vaccine nonsense happened. It turns out that in some communities only about 30% of children, the most vulnerable among us, have been protected. A combination of carelessness (“Hey, no one has had polio for years. Who needs the treatment?”) and willful ignorance in accepting all the conspiratorial nonsense about vaccinations in general have brought us to this shameful and dangerous status.
This is Not a New Problem
There have always been people who resisted vaccines. In fairness, when they were new, one could understand such doubts. George Washington had troops who refused to have shots, almost to the point of rebellion. Similarly, when the Spanish Flu pandemic hit early in the 20th Century, there were people who refused to wear masks. Sound familiar?
But Two Key Component are New, And They Are Game Changers
One, we now live in what is truly a global community. Travel is a very effective spreader of disease. Often, something spreads all over the world before the problem is known or identified. Anyone at risk essentially puts everyone at risk.
Two, social media and its kindred souls make it easy to spread the most outrages theories, conspiracies, and rumors at lightning speed. People with no clue can seem authoritative in their pronouncements. Those who seek disruption and social damage have previously unimaginable power to reach and convince others. Some do so for their own misguided reasons, some for monetary gain, others to stir up anger and social discord.
What might have been tolerable to some degree in the past is, because of these two factors, now a terrible burden on society, on all of us. The risks and disruptions are significant, to put it mildly.
Individual Freedom vs Community Health and the Freedom of Others
Individual freedom of choice has always been a cornerstone of American society. Responsibility for those decisions sometimes does not get the same level of attention and dedication, but that comes with the decisions as well.
When dealing with public health, the decision parameters are completely different. No one should have the power to put the lives and health of others at risk based on their individual choices. Diseases like polio, covid, measles, and whooping cough are experiencing surges simply because people are not getting the preventive treatments.
As herd immunity goes down, the risks go up for everyone else, including to those who took the necessary cautions. You have no right to put me or other people’s kids at life risk just because you read on Reddit that shots are being used to plant electronic bugs in people.
What To Do?
This is tricky stuff politically and has many legal implications, but it seems to me that we as a people have a right to insist that others take the minimum steps to help keep us all self. When dealing with highly communicable diseases, your individual responsibility to the community outweighs your individual freedom.
For starters, how about much tougher enforcement for children to be in schools and in community activities. No proof of protection, no participation in public education, sports, etc. Home schoolers should be required to provide the same proof, as their kids take part in community programs and are mixed in the general population.
For serious outbreaks like a pandemic, those who refuse preventive care should do so under exceptional isolation. Not allowed to work, shop, anything involving mixing with other people. Yes, that would mean checking verifications at all sorts of places. Over a million Americans died of COVID, more still are. Requiring check points for verification of shots does not seem too excessive a balance in comparison to so many unnecessary deaths.
I really regret that necessary medical steps got politicized, but they did, and the same will happen again. I vote for having the steps in place to isolate and educate, not to obfuscate. Selfish and willfully ignorant persons will always be among us. Let’s call them out and minimize the risks they cause others. The dangers and impacts are serious enough to warrant such steps.
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