Thursday, February 5, 2015

Vaccinations aren't a partisan issue

Although they've since backtracked a bit, potential 2016 presidential candidates Rand Paul and Chris Christie have decided to make vaccinations a partisan issue:
Rand Paul, R-Ky., another potential presidential nominee, told radio host Laura Ingraham on Monday that he thought most vaccinations should be voluntary, The Washington Post reports. The senator, an ophthalmologist away from his political life, later told CNBC that vaccination should be encouraged, but that he also had heard of children developing "profound" mental impairment after being vaccinated. [...] Christie said he and his wife decided to vaccinate their kids, and that is "the best expression I can give you of my opinion." But then he went on to seemingly allow for some wiggle room: "I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well so that's the balance that the government has to decide. But I can just tell people from our perspective, Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think it's an important part of making sure we protect their health and the public health."(NPR
 Given that he's a ophthalmologist, this is especially irresponsible for Rand Paul. (Blindness can result as a complication of measles.) I understand wanting to play to his libertarian base, but this is an issue where I think public health should trump personality liberty. When something exists beyond the boundaries of your own body, it's no only your problem. Bleeding Heart Libertarians further explains how the two can play nicely together:
Some arguments for vaccination requirements go like this: We already have a bunch of laws that tell people what to do for the sake of their health, and those laws are good, so why not also have laws in favor of vaccines? In general, I oppose the idea that public officials can interfere with people’s choices for the sake of public health. For example, I think that drug prohibitions, soda bans, and seat belt laws for adults are all impermissible policies. People are not liable to be interfered with simply because they are making an unhealthy choice.
But vaccines are different for two reasons. First, I don’t think we should presume that parents have rights to make medical decisions for their kids. Rather, children’s treatment should be determined by what is in the best interest of the child, and that means getting vaccinated.
I agree with a lot of this, actually. (And I really take issue with Paul's statement that parents "own" their children.) Some public health legislation -- like taxes on "bad" foods and the over-regulation of drugs -- not only interferes with personal choice, but disproportionately targets poor people. But vaccines? Yes. It's not only your kid's health at stake.

The best thing is to get the correct information out there, and that means being less of an ideologue even if it means forfeiting some votes.