“It’s not my responsibility to inject my child with chemicals in order for [a child like Maggie] to be supposedly healthy," Wolfson argued on CNN. "As far as I’m concerned, it’s very likely that her leukemia is from vaccinations in the first place.”
“I’m not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure,” he added. “It’s not my responsibility to be protecting their child." (see at 2:08 at video below.)
In the ensuing debate, two top contenders for the GOP presidential nomination, Chris Christie and Rand Paul, have come out in opposition to mandatory vaccination, although they were not nearly as callous about it as Wolfson. Christie cast it in terms of personal choice vs. public health, taking a very different position than he took in dealing with the Ebola controversy.
“The state doesn’t own your children,” Paul argued. “Parents own the children. And it is an issue of freedom and public health.”
So there you have it:
1,) Do we, as human beings, have moral and legal obligations to each other, even to those whom we do not know and will never even meet? Or are we best served if we make decisions based solely on our own perceived self-interest, and allowing others to do the same?
2.) If such obligations to others do exist, is The Law an appropriate mechanism for forcing such obligations onto those who would otherwise not recognize them?
3.) At what point can something be said to be "proven" to the point that action is justified, especially in a highly contentious culture such as our own? That question has become increasingly thorny now that the Internet provides a platform for seemingly reasoned arguments backed by evidence that we never landed on the moon, that Sept. 11 was a plot by the government, that global warming is a conspiracy among climate researchers, and that Barack Obama isn't a natural-born citizen?
Personally, I hate needles. It's probably a consequence of growing up as a military brat following my father to assignments all over the world. We were regularly inoculated against every disease for which a vaccine had been developed -- as I recall, the cholera shot was particularly painful -- and Uncle Sam did not make it a matter of choice.
But yes, childhood vaccinations should be mandatory.
** Like most Americans my age -- raised before measles vaccines -- I had the disease as a kid and of course survived. The tendency is to think that if tens of millions of us survived, it can't be that bad. But as the Centers for Disease Control points out, the fatality rate among children with measles is one or two out of a thousand. If three or four million children get it a year, as used to be the case, the math gets ugly pretty quickly.
It can also cause pneumonia, hearing loss and encephalitis (swelling of the brain) leading to mental retardation.