Should vaccines be mandated?

First Posted: 2/5/2015

As usual, a firestorm raged across the country last week because Americans apparently don’t understand the difference between being opposed to something and simply supporting liberty.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., rightly said vaccinations should be voluntary.

“The state doesn’t own your children,” he said. “It is an issue of freedom.”

The alarmists who dominate the left accused Paul of being against vaccinations.


Paul advocated the right to choose. That does not mean he is opposed to vaccines. Unfortunately, the inability of Americans to understand the difference seems to be in large part responsible for the continual decline in the quality of our public discourse.

The idea that government should be allowed to forcibly inject foreign substances into a citizen’s body should be abhorrent to all who believe in a free society.

The arguments in support of forced vaccination are specious at best. Many of the arguments stem from an alarmist attitude that, like anthropogenic climate change, has no basis in reality.

Meanwhile, there are many reasons to eschew vaccines, a full accounting of which would take much more space than I have allotted to me.

Perhaps the most prevalent argument in favor of forced vaccinations, one that even some libertarians have adopted, is that you have no right to risk the rest of society by refusing to be vaccinated. In other words, a self-defense argument.

Of course, this argument is silly.

First, not all vaccines are for communicable diseases. You are not going to spread tetanus, for example, if you somehow contract it.

More importantly, though, vaccination is no guarantee that one will not contract a disease. At least six of those infected from the recent Disneyland measles outbreak had been vaccinated. Conversely, being unvaccinated is no guarantee of infection.

Forcibly injecting substances into someone else’s body cannot be self-defense, because there is no way to know that the person will ever be responsible for disease transmission.

Another valid reason some might choose to avoid vaccination is that many of the diseases being vaccinated against are either extremely rare in the United States or simply not that dangerous.

Statistically speaking, many of the 69 doses of 16 vaccines we give our children are simply not necessary. Diseases such as chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, etc., are not that dangerous and result in lifetime immunity against reoccurrence. Vaccines cannot make that claim.

Even the big ones, such as polio, are not that dangerous. Polio, for example, was on the way out when the vaccination program was initiated, thanks to better living conditions in the United States after the end of the Great Depression.

Besides, more than 95 percent of the time, polio only results in a slight fever, malaise, headache, sore throat, and vomiting, with the disease running its course in 72 hours. In less than 2 percent of cases, does a person become permanently disabled.

While that 2 percent is still tragic, if one were to play the odds, one might choose to avoid vaccination given the dangers the shot presents.

About 30,000 cases of adverse reactions to vaccines have been reported annually to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System since 1990, with 10 percent to 15 percent resulting in permanent disability, hospitalization, life-threatening illness, or death. (

Additionally, between 1989 and July 1, 2014, 3,645 compensation awards have been made by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (amounting to more than $2.7 billion in awards and $113.2 million to cover legal costs). (

Finally, the idea that an unvaccinated child presents a risk to vaccinated child is silly if you believe vaccines work. After all, the vaccinated child should be safe, right?

Like Paul, I am not necessarily opposed to vaccinations. Indeed, I have received the smallpox vaccine three times. I have been vaccinated against anthrax, plague and a host of other rare and exotic diseases that could be used in biological weapons.

But that was my choice.

Parents and individuals should have the ultimate say when it comes to injecting foreign substances into the body, not some government bureaucrat based on remote possibilities that a person might contract a largely harmless disease.

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