Monday, December 29, 2008

The No Vaccinating Problem

This piece from Jezebel about a recent outbreak of the measles in San Diego -- an outbreak initiated by some Whole Foods shoppers -- almost gets at one of my main objections to not vaccinating. In Jezebel and on pandagon (the original article Jezebel sites), they point out the weird connection between being opposed to vaccinating and an undermining of feminism. To wit: if your child gets the measles, the child will have to be quarantined for three weeks, which is OK if you're not a working mother, but if you do work, it's not so good. This gets at the problem of attachment parenting and the strange elevation/de-valuing of women that goes on there, but that's not my point here. No, the point is that Jezebel also quotes Amanda Marcotte writing at pandagon saying that those who have the privilege not to vaccinate are able to do so and trust their children are safe because everyone else vaccinates. So they don't vaccinate to make a political point.

But the making of a political point is not the worst of it, to my mind. The worst of it is that parents who choose not to vaccinate are able do so and not worry too much about measles or whooping cough or any other disease that used to kill or maim children, because they --self- righteously ---reject the purported risk. But in doing so, they rely on other parents to take on whatever risk they're rejecting (even if the risk is highly dubious). It's a terrible kind of selfish my-kid-first-ism. From where I sit, not vaccinating is either a privilege of wealth and access or a burden of poverty. It's not like I didn't worry about vaccinating my kids, I did. I worried, and I wondered, but still, if you're choosing not to vaccinate, I'm hard pressed to come up with a reasonable or ethical reason for the choice.


Anonymous said...

I don't have kids so maybe I'm not qualified to comment, but I have to say I totally agree with you. You made the point well, especially the my-kid-ism part.

Several young relatives in my parents' (pre-vaccination) generation were disabled or killed by polio. Vaccine was seen as miraculous in those days.


Robin Aronson said...

I don't think having kids is a qualifier on this one since the implications of the decision extend so far beyond the individual....and you make a good point that it wasn't so long ago that vaccines were seen as life they are. To be fair, there were some problems with some vaccine preservatives (I believe thimeresol), but those were resolved. When a child doesn't develop typically, you want to know why--I guess the introduction of a vaccine makes an easy target, particularly with autism. But just because it's targetable doesn't mean it's appropriate.