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Monday, February 8, 2016

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A Community Conversation About Health and Responsibility: Vaccines and Beyond

Unintended Consequences - Learning From History

Right now, we are facing a serious threat to our safety and freedom. As is so often the case, this threat is coming from good people, well-intentioned people who seek only to protect society.  But good intentions aren’t enough.

In the 1860’s, the United States had a serious problem with alcohol. Whether drinking beer, wine, or stronger spirits, the average adult drank the equivalent of two and a half gallons of pure alcohol per year. (2) After decades of preaching against the evils of alcohol, the Temperance movement abandoned education in favor of legal coercion:  the complete ban of alcoholic drinks.  In 1919, the 18th amendment to the constitution was passed, and Prohibition began.

The effects were disastrous. Prohibition gave us organized crime and corrupted every part of the justice system. In 1933, Prohibition was repealed as a failed experiment. Today we’re back to drinking about two and a half gallons of alcohol per person. (3) But now we have AA to help people who wish to stop. We have MADD and SADD to prevent drunk driving. We have laws restricting the sale of alcohol to children. While there is still much progress to be made, we are learning to live with alcohol in a way that limits harm.
Prohibition was a simplistic response to a complex problem that endangered us all and continues to cause problems to this day. Corruption and organized crime are not in anyone’s best interests.  Even those who choose to completely abstain from alcohol are safer in a nation in which alcohol is legal.

There are well-intentioned people who believe that the only way to save society from disease is to force vaccination on each and every person, child and adult alike. But like Prohibition, this is simplistic and dangerous. It’s also based on several pervasive myths.

Myth 1:  There is an increasing fad of refusing all vaccines that, left unchecked, will eliminate the benefits of herd immunity and cause outbreaks of dangerous diseases.  

What a terrifying idea. Who wouldn’t support forced vaccinations if the only alternative was epidemics? But this myth is not true.

Reality:  There is neither a downward trend nor a future likelihood of mass vaccine refusal.  Vaccination rates are actually holding steady or increasing for most vaccines.

So what about all these unvaccinated children we hear about in the news? They’re mostly vaccinated! Consider a group of ten kindergarteners which contains one child who skipped the chickenpox vaccine, one child who deferred a Hepatitis B vaccine, and one child who has received only 4 of the 5 pertussis vaccinations. That group of children is marked in the statistics as 30% unvaccinated. This is absurd. In fact, these children represent only 6 missed vaccines out of 390 vaccines administered which equals an “unvaccinated” rate of .01%. This group is 99.99% vaccinated and herd immunity is strong! 

Myth 2:  Forcing people to use a beneficial medical intervention could not possibly cause harm.

Reality:  Direct force is a dangerous tool that often has unexpected negative side effects.  

Prohibition was not intended to strengthen the Mafia, but it did. Even if vaccines had no risks whatsoever, the risks of undermining Informed Consent vastly exceed any potential benefits. Especially given that a group reported to be 30% unvaccinated can actually be 99.99% vaccinated. 

Myth 3:  We are in the middle of a public health crisis that can be resolved with higher vaccination levels.

Reality:  Every disease that can be effectively controlled with an existing vaccine is being effectively controlled with an existing vaccine. 

Even with 100 percent vaccination levels, measles outbreaks are inevitable if a contagious individual goes to a crowded place like Disneyland or New York City. Even perfect herd immunity does not prevent these kind of outbreaks, it just keeps them small. Large outbreaks of diseases like pertussis and influenza result from vaccine failure, not vaccine refusal (1). 

So, let’s talk about Informed Consent.

When you meet with your doctor, your doctor will make various health recommendations. You may choose to follow or decline those recommendations and you may ask to discuss other options. But you don’t need your doctor’s permission to make those decisions. That’s what Informed Consent means.  

It’s a violation of Informed Consent for your doctor to obtain your compliance through threats.  It’s an equal violation for your school, employer, or government to do so. Attacking your education, your employment, your custody of your children, and your housing are all forms of coercion that infringe upon your right to Informed Consent.

Informed Consent means you have the right to say “yes” or “no” to a medical recommendation without fear of punishment for either answer. Vaccine medicine is powerful and has the potential for great good. Coercion does not. Let us learn from the mistakes of the past. Let’s keep our vaccines available, affordable, and voluntary.

             (baboon study)
(alcohol consumption 1850-1983)
             (alcohol consumption 1935-2010)

“A Community Conversation About Health and Responsibility: Vaccines and Beyond” is an ongoing series written by two close friends with a passion for improving community cohesion and building respectful relationships in a diverse world.  This article was co-created by Karen Crisalli Winter and March Twisdale.   BLOG:   Email:

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Welcome to the conversation. Knowledge changes. People respond best when this truism is kept in mind. In community, March & Karen