I have stayed away from the topic of vaccinations in my practice because it is very emotional for both sides of the argument and it is not necessarily relevant to what I do as a chiropractor. However, this is more about freedom and healthcare and I am finally ready to share my thoughts. I know some of you will disagree on different points. To that, I say, great! Science is all about looking at an issue from several angles and sharing perspectives. Science does not own truth nor does it ever espouse it. Science seeks to hypothesize, observe under certain conditions, and theorize. That saying, I am very concerned with any side of an argument that claims to use science to hammer their agenda to the point of a mandate.
State Senator Richard Pan, who was a practicing pediatrician turned politic, has been working very hard to make vaccinations mandatory. I am sure he has his reasons and some of them may be pure but it also seems like he is being supported by those who stand to make a lot of money from the sale of these vaccinations. He started out a few years ago by passing a bill which made it illegal for parents to sign a vaccine waiver on grounds of religious or moral opposition which forced parents who are concerned about the damage a vaccine may cause to their child to get a waiver signed by a medical doctor. Now he is going after the medical doctors who signed those waivers and looking to establish a panel to overturn their opinions and make it harder, if not impossible, to get a waiver.
A few years ago, Senator Pan paraded several medical doctors who testified that they would sign waivers if they felt it was warranted. Apparently, that was a charade to pass that bill because now he does not want any individual doctor to have that kind of authority. Let’s be very clear, he is not interested in your research, your opinion, your morals, or your beliefs. Right now he is seeking to make it mandatory for all children who attend a public school to be vaccinated unless his handpicked panel decides otherwise. This is not about science, it is about control derived from money and power.
The argument for mandatory vaccines and the talking points behind them have spiraled to fear mongering. They use the theory of herd immunity as the basis of their argument. Herd immunity is the theory that if a high percentage of people are immune to a disease, presumably through vaccination, then the disease can be contained. It is not a terrible theory but there are holes in it. They also claim they need herd immunity to protect the children who cannot be vaccinated. They claim that we are putting these children at risk. Interestingly enough though, they make it sound as if unvaccinated individuals are the ones spreading the disease. This thought has been pervasive enough for the mayor or New York City to pass a decree that the unvaccinated are not allowed in the city or they will be fined.
To these points, I beg for a more scientific approach or just plain and simple logic. It is not an unvaccinated person who spreads disease but a person who has the disease. You cannot share something you don’t have or have never had. In fact, vaccinated children are 100% more likely to spread a disease they are vaccinated for than unvaccinated children. Within two weeks of being vaccinated for measles or chicken pox, there is a shedding period where the person can be contagious. It is rare but possible. Whereas, it is still impossible for an unvaccinated person without the disease to spread it. Besides, if you have so much faith that vaccines work, why should you be worried if you and/or your kids are vaccinated? Finally, if you are worried about the children who are unvaccinated getting the disease, I can understand the concern from your perspective but are you willing to claim that your concern is greater than the parents’? Herein lies the debate. Do you have the right to act on your differing opinion on a child who is not yours?
Those who claim the moral high ground in favor of forced vaccinations are missing the greater points of liberty and the slippery slope that can lead to the loss of all freedom. I firmly believe that almost everyone should get adjusted on a regular basis and that society would benefit from it. Would you be comfortable with me pushing to pass a law that forced you to get your children adjusted regardless of your opinion about chiropractic? What if I was reasonable at first and just said they needed a couple of adjustments? What if later I told you they needed more? What if I said, at first, that you could get a waiver if your chiropractor (and only a chiropractor) said your bones were too brittle or you have joint laxity or some other condition that might cause harm, only to then tell you that your chiropractor is not qualified to make that decision and we need to have a panel of experts whom I choose to make that for them? At first blush, this is ridiculous, yet, we are at this point right now with our rights to choose the care we feel best for our children as the stakes.
If forced vaccinations for children going to school passes, what is next? Will this smarter-than-you panel of medical doctors then decide that adults must be vaccinated? Will they decide that you have no options? Will we start fining people as they have threatened in New York City? Does this sound like a conspiracy? It is! But unlike the people who are trying to convince you that the earth is flat, this conspiracy has a lot of money and power to back it up.
Again, my point is not whether you should or should not vaccinate your children. For what it is worth, my opinion is that vaccination started out as a pretty good idea. It was a risk vs. risk scenario. Introduce a little of a disease, let the immune system work its magic and create a great chance at immunity. The risk on both sides is always real. We have taken it too far, though. The pro-vaccine side seeks to dismiss any risk that the diseases, let alone the rest of the chemicals in the cocktail, pose any risk. Yes, those risks seem to be small but they are real. For some people, the risks are not only real but imminent. For those opposed to vaccines, they tend to inflate the risks. Most people who are vaccinated are not going to have a severe reaction. For those that have had severe reactions, however, it can be absolutely devastating.
I get that having the measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, chickenpox, shingles, polio, etc. can be very bad and even life-threatening. Step back from the fear and consider that the chance of infection is still very small in the United States and the risk of death is almost statistically completely improbable. Now, one can argue that it is because of the vaccines that these diseases are almost non-existent. That is a reasonable assumption but I can counter that disease comes and goes regardless. I had chicken pox as a kid. Almost everyone I know did. It wasn’t fun but it wasn’t deadly. Now, I am immune. If I keep my immune system in good shape, I will never get it, or shingles, again. No vaccine needed. Chickenpox was super rare when they came out with the vaccination. Since then, shingles and chickenpox (the same virus) have been on the rise. Maybe it is a coincidence but I reserve the right to scientifically observe to think otherwise. Observation takes time, by the way. It is OK to wait and test. There is no crisis. Furthermore, are you comfortable giving your infant a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease like HPV or hepatitis because they may choose to be promiscuous when they are teenagers? I’m not. I would rather teach them the consequences of such actions and encourage proper behavior.
The argument as to whether you should or should not vaccinate your children based on the risks on both sides of the argument is a very personal decision and should be considered with much research. Unfortunately, the research is very thin. When, how much, and what kinds of vaccines a child needs, has changed with time not based on research but on theory. Either way, your right to do so or not should be unalienable. Forced vaccination raises the same ethical arguments of the Nuremberg Trials. I am far less concerned about the possibility of more disease or more injuries. Those will cycle. If you do your best to stay healthy, your risk for either is very low. I am much more concerned about the loss of freedom. What happens when you disagree with your doctor about a procedure for you or your child in the future? Will you be forced to do the procedure anyway? Will your child be taken from you? It sounds crazy but please consider that control is always the end game even if it sold for benevolent reasons.
***Photo by Hyttalo Souza on Unsplash