Immunizations and Epidemics

I think its time for a quick update(and a bit of editorializing) about immunizations.  Of course, its the absolute best option for your child.  Beyond that, its important for us as citizens of a society to protect each other.  In 1624, the English poet John Donne said “no man is an island.” Yes, our first duty is to protect our own.  But I believe that we also still owe a strong commitment to our neighbors and fellow citizens.

Current research demonstrates that recent dangerous outbreaks of pertussis and measles had their origins in unvaccinated children bringing these infections to their surroundings.  So I wish to stress that this decision has implications beyond one’s own family to the larger community.

One of my favorite proverbs comes from the Talmud, one of Judaism’s most sacred texts.  It begins ” If am not for myself, who will be?” And that’s important, isn’t it?  We have to look out for ourselves and those closest to us; it’s only natural, and it’s a good thing.  But then the proverb continues–” But if I only for myself, what kind of a man am I?”  So, noting the above,  the decision to immunize impacts not only one’s own family, but also our neighbors and fellow citizens.

And my question to vaccine skeptics: if a given person refuses vaccination, subsequently contracts that illness, and then infects a child (and note–these things are traceable) who is injured or dies as a result–then what are the moral implications of the decision to not immunize?  Now, leave aside the many well documented benefits of immunizations to each child AND the strong scientific evidence against any serious risk.  If one seeks to enjoy the benefits of living among neighbors in a community (commerce, companionship, recreation, security) then I believe that it is a contingent responsibility to support the safe, efficient functioning of that society (eg, pay your taxes, maintain your property, take steps to not put your neighbor at risk by, for example, not driving impaired, and immunizing to prevent disease spread).  I say it is simply mature and proper citizenship to accept responsibility  for our fellows along with the advantages derived from living among them.

Send along questions and comments, and thanks for following.


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