The national conversation raging over vaccination in the wake of a recent measles outbreak has conflated two issues which properly ought to remain separate.
Are vaccinations safe and effective? Should they be mandatory?
For many, their answer to the first question determines their answer to the second. Such is the case with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who told Bill O’Reilly on Monday that government ought to force vaccinations upon unwilling parents. From The Blaze:
When O’Reilly claimed that about 90 percent of parents “do the right thing” in getting their children vaccinated, Kelly said 10 percent is still too many parents allowing their children to remain unvaccinated.
“This is going to be a big issue for politicians going forward, because it’s about Big Brother. But on the other hand, some things do require some involvement of Big Brother,” Kelly responded.
It’s unclear how Kelly’s sentiment differs substantially from any call to apply government force against individual judgment “to protect all of us.” She says that some things require the involvement of Big Brother, but fails to articulate any standard by which to determine what those things are.
It’s not as though abstaining from vaccination is the only way that others’ choices affect our environment. If we’re willing to forcefully vaccinate for an alleged common good, where do we draw the line? By what principle? Why not forcefully sterilize for the common good? Why not dictate people’s diets or force them to exercise? If eliminating disease takes primacy over individual rights, why not wholeheartedly embrace eugenic prohibitions and mandates?
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently evoked a “balance” between “giving people the option” to vaccinate and “addressing parental concerns.” Of course, there is no balance between choice and non-choice. Either vaccinations are mandatory or they are not.
Whether or not vaccination should be mandatory should not be coupled to the question of whether or not vaccinations are safe or effective. These are two separate matters. By conflating the two, we lend credence to the “progressive” notion that government may properly impose upon individual judgment wherever some community benefit is perceived. And if we concede that, we concede the entire concept of rights.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here.)