Vaccinations for All? Not So Fast…

October 3, 2011

Political Theory

It’s that time of year again-cold and flu season. You can see it as you walk around campus: students are sick, tissues seem to appear everywhere, and CVS is just about out of cold medicine (at least it was as of Tuesday night when I went there). On the door of CVS, however, was a sign: flu shots available here. Cool. I don’t have the money for that right now. Never mind.

Later that night I remembered a news article that I had read about parents rejecting vaccinations for their children. I don’t mean flu shots; I mean the more “fundamental” shots like measles, mumps, and rubella, chicken pox, and the like. Even if their children have no medical reason not to have these shots (such as an allergy), some parents feel that the benefits of vaccination do not outweigh the risks. In fact, the problem has become so serious in the eyes of some experts that a number of national news agencies have run stories about it. You can find the MSNBC article here, dated September 1.

Basically, there are two groups of people here: those who favor vaccination for everyone able and those who don’t. Those who favor vaccination claim that doing so helps build up the herd immunity, which in turn protects the small portion (mostly infants) of the population that has yet to be vaccinated for a certain disease. Experts supporting this side argue that if an insufficient amount of the population is vaccinated, epidemic diseases considered all but gone could re-emerge, posing the largest problems for those most at risk-the young, the old, and those with medical conditions preventing them from vaccination.

On the other hand, however, are those who oppose vaccination. Some members of this group cite the possible link between infant vaccination and autism.  While no conclusive evidence has been gathered proving this link, nothing has disproven it, either. Others claim that since God did not grant each person immunity, adding it goes against His natural plan for each of us. Still others just oppose vaccination because they don’t want to see their child suffer each time he or she goes to the doctor’s office.

What it comes down to is the common good vs. rights of the individual.  Beyond doctors dropping their patients who refuse vaccinations (as alluded to in the article), the debate comes down to this seemingly simple concept.  Those favoring vaccinations for all are saying that immunizing each individual contributes to the overall benefit of society, which sounds pretty reasonable. It also seems rational, however, to give parents the right to determine whether or not their children should be vaccinated as personal liberties and individual rights are at the core of the American experience.

So what do you think? Should the government pass laws that protect the common good first, or should the government pass laws that support individual liberties first? Hobbes would likely argue that the government should take a firm stance and pass a law regarding shots, but maybe a man like Locke would disagree and say that people deserve to have that free choice.



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35 Comments on “Vaccinations for All? Not So Fast…”

  1. ndreynolds864 Says:

    This reminds of a very recent political issue in the GOP nominee race between Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann argued that Perry’s mandate in the state of Texas to make the HPV vaccine required for 12 year old girls in that state. Bachmann argued that the vaccinations would provide more harm to the individual girls than would help and it denied their rights as citizens as well as took away their innocence. Perry protected himself by saying he made this decision to protect girls in the state of Texas against cervical cancer. Bachmann said girls could be subjected to negative side-effects of the vaccination and Perry took a lot of heat over this debate but doctors came to defend Perry saying that Bachmann’s references to the side-effects were unrealistic and false. Vaccinations help not only the well-being of the individual but also protects society because these deadly diseases cannot be passed from one person to another if a great number of people are vaccinated.

    The decision on whether or not to make this a law or not I think lies solely in the governments jurisdiction but also is a personal choice. The individuals who want the vaccinations could get them through the government which I would assume most of the population would do and if the minority of individuals would like to refrain from the vaccinations for whatever reasons they may do so according to their rights as human beings. If they become infected with these deadly diseases that was because of their decision and if the all the people who wanted the vaccination received them then the concentration of the disease stays within the groups who decided to not receive the necessary vaccinations. The major issue arises in the case of infants who have not had the time to get these vaccinations in order to protect themselves. This could be solved by providing the vaccinations to the families in the hospital the next days after birth in order to protect them from the onset of their life. The government should provide the necessary protection but those who do not want to receive these potential life-saving vaccinations should have the right to do so.

  2. Baihan Li Says:

    I remember that when I was young, once upon a time I saw a scar on my uncle’s arm. It looked like he was ironed by a burning coin. I was so curious about this scar and I thought there must be a story behind that. However, it turned out just to be a memorial of smallpox vaccination. As a young girl, I was so threatened by this ugly scar that I almost fought with my teacher to refuse this vaccination when it was my turn.

    Undoubtedly I failed and there is no scar left on my arm. Yet I would never forget how my teacher threatened my with my course grade. In fact, I am a little bit surprised that children in the U.S.A can choose not to accept vaccination. I am surprised not because I have been “oppressed” for so many years, but because I think accepting vaccination is a prerequisite for one to enjoy the social welfare.

    It is reasonable for everyone to ask for and enjoy his/her liberty in the U.S.A. Yet just as Tocqueville stated, individualism would sometimes lead to extreme selfishness. For those who refuse the vaccination, their actions to me would rather be classified as selfish behaviour than a reasonable choice out of right. Let’s think this way: who would pay for their bill once those people really get sick? The answer might be the country. However, I actually prefer the answer of “people”. The money for your pills, your bandage and your treatment indeed come from millions of taxpayer

    Thus, I would say it is fine for one to refuse the vaccination if he/she gives up the profit of health insurance. Similarly, it is unreasonable that one could ask others to pay for his/her health bill while he/she rejects the vaccination. Vaccination, in my opinion, is part of people’s social responsibility, with which the mass enjoy the benefit. When a person chooses not to get the vaccination, I would say that he chooses not to be responsible for himself and the whole society. Therefore, how can he expect the society to be responsible for him when he really become sick?

    All of us have signed a contract to live in the society. None of us could, or should, enjoy the welfare while refusing to pay for the advantage. Yes one can still choose not to accept the vaccination, but is he/she ready for a society that is not responsible for him/her?

  3. hjclec Says:

    While reading this article, I am reminded of the time when the University of Michigan asked me to get a meningitis shot before living in the dorms last year. The meningitis shot was suggested, because it would be really tragic if meningitis were spread throughout the dorms. The university was trying to promote public health for the common good. I like the way the university was looking out for us, without infringing on our individual liberties.

    I actually have a friend who chose not to get the shot for religious purposes. If she were forced to get the shot, then she would’ve not come to this university last year. Her decision was respected, and she felt comfortable attending the university.

    I think this method of suggestion is a good way for the government to act. I think the government should pass laws that promote our individual liberties first. But if the government thinks there’s something the public should do, like get a vaccine, then they can simply suggest it with the use of media. Or they can make information available on the pros and cons of things like vaccines and then let people decide for themselves.

    The only case I can think of where I feel the government is right in passing laws for the public good over individual liberties is in the case of the war. In the case of a war I do think that the government is right in initiating a draft. In this case, the citizens wouldn’t be given a choice. They would have to fight for their country. But hopefully they would want to do that anyways. In most other, less extreme circumstances though, I do feel the government should be more concerned with our individual liberties.

  4. amgille Says:

    I believe that different instances call for the need for legislation that promotes the common good over individual liberties. In this situation, the health of others is at risk, which infringes upon the right to life of others in society. Everyone should take the steps necessary to protect themselves, thus protecting overall society. People may argue that it infringes upon their rights, but might certain circumstances occur that may cause them to change their mind? For instance, if an epidemic did occur, would those who had believed that the government’s use of legislation on vaccines infringed upon their individual liberties argue with the government’s use of a quarantine to protect the general public from the disease? It could be argued that the government’s use of the vaccine legislation worked to reduce the amount of individual liberties limited in the future due to sickness and epidemics. Furthermore, in regards to the argument that vaccines lead to autism in children was debunked in 2010 as described in the Times article found on,9171,1960277,00.html. Thus the fear of harming a child in the future cannot stand as a sufficient argument for the choice to not become vaccinated.

    On a broader note, this argument could be applied to the argument for universal health care. By providing for all citizens, one is caring for the entire population and for the common good of society. Yet, individuals want the best healthcare they can afford and should be able to obtain it according to their own wants. As of yet, the United States has not found the correct answer to this disagreement, though many other countries have determined that the common good is able to triumph over the individual liberties. So, in still stands whether the United States will take the side of the common good over the individual or vice versa.

  5. zekeharris Says:

    This is a very interesting and thought provoking question that can apply to so many different things in our world today, but this really makes me question my views. I personally don’t like to go get flu shots. It so happened today that a couple of my friends were going to go to the University Health Service and get flu vaccinations. I recall saying “no I don’t need to go, I don’t get the flu.” As if I were some type of super hero immune to all diseases. But now that I think about it I have never had the flu so it has not been apparent, in my mind, that I need it.
    With all that said I think finding a deeper truth of what exactly is best for all would sway those (like myself) who tend not to get the shot simply because we don’t feel the need to. I know I would not be able to live with myself if I got a defenseless infant sick who simply because they were not old enough to get the shot. For me personally more research should be done so that the majority can come to a consensus on what the common good is, as Hobbes would say. “ It’s definitely not easy watching your child get three or four vaccinations in a visit and it’s definitely something that’s upsetting as a parent, but it’s nothing like watching them be sick in a hospital,” said Michelle Kubasiak. This quote really has made me question whether I should get the shot not only for me, but everyone else around me. As corny as it sounds it kind of feels like my duty as a citizen now.

  6. Sarah Strickberger Says:

    I don’t think that this is an issue of health safety. This is an issue of maintaining personal freedoms. While I respect the fact that health safety is an important issue in our society, I think the preservation of the rights of the state and the people is even more significant. That being said, I do not think the government should pass laws to protect the common good, in this instance. Personal liberties are a dying freedom in America today. The state has slowly acquired more and more power, jeopardizing citizens’ personal rights in the process. Stripping individuals of their freedom to decide for themselves whether or not to vaccinate themselves or their children is a slippery slope. While, yes, it is the state’s responsibility to protect the common good, passing laws infringing on personal freedoms is tricky. This grey area should be left untouched. As soon as personal rights begin to be taken away from the citizens, it will be difficult to re-draw the line. It is best not to even mess with this tricky area of personal rights because once rights are stripped from the citizens, no one will have the power to regain rights from the state.
    Conserving the balance of power between the state and the citizens is, in my opinion, a more important issue than vaccinations. It is safer to let the people protect the common good for themselves, instead of requiring the people by law to get vaccinated, thus stripping them of their personal rights, the government should allocate funds to inform and educate the people why vaccinations are important for not only themselves, but also the common good. In doing so, the government would be able to influence the people and hopefully persuade citizens to get vaccinated. However, in the process, the government would not be infringing on the citizens’ rights.

  7. Matthew Bernstein Says:

    This is a very interesting dilemma, as it addresses the essential question of how much influence should the federal government have over the lives of everyday citizens? On the one hand, making the vaccination of all American children mandatory will most likely save some lives, let alone help make sure all Americans have an equal opportunity to grow up healthy. On the other hand, the government should not be able to make the American public do something if they have justified personal reasons for not vaccinating their children.

    I would have to side with the Hobbesian stance that the government should step in and mandate vaccinations. Yes, it can be considered an invasion into personal rights of the individuals. However, children, especially infants, should not be forced to suffer through horrible illnesses at such a young age due to the negligence of their parents. Furthermore, the immunizations that all children should and would receive under this potential law would set all American children on the right path towards a bright and healthy future. Isn’t that part of the American dream? Giving all Americans the equal opportunity to succeed?

  8. leannaprairie Says:

    The first thing I thought of when reading this post was utilitarianism; the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The idea of the government passing a law that requires people to be vaccinated would be rather utilitarian, though not necessarily the best idea (in my opinion).

    I agree with Sarah Strickberger that this is more of an issue of personal freedoms than health safety. I understand the concern that not having people vaccinated could eventually pose a risk to the greater population, but I believe that one’s health is among the most basic of personal freedoms, and shouldn’t be tampered with.

    I didn’t have the flu vaccine until I came to college, when my roommate basically dragged me to UHS and pushed me into a chair. My parent’s had never made me get it, and I did get sick pretty much every winter, but it was never a cold or flu too terrible. When I got the vaccination, I was convinced I would get sick (as many people do from the shot), and I was prepared to place the blame on my forceful roomie, but in the end, she was the one who got sick (karma, anyone?), and I was fine.

    So I do believe that vaccinations and other health decisions should be left up to the individual, not to the government. Again, one’s health is one of the most basic personal freedoms we have, (not to mention one of the few we have), and we should take care to maintain and protect that freedom.

  9. brianfrankel Says:

    I agree with Sarah’s comments regarding the importance of personal liberties. The government has neither the power nor the right to enforce vaccinations throughout the population. Like any decision, each individual must weigh the positive and negative consequences of his/her action and decide accordingly. The question is, without violating the personal liberties described and cherished by individuals such as Locke and Mill, how can the government still promote the public good?

    In my opinion, the government can only succeed in its job of promoting the public good by providing incentives to individuals. Incentives, unlike coercion, instill individual responsibility, which, in the case of vaccinations, will further encourage people to participate because otherwise they will feel a sense as if they were betraying their communities. In addition, incentivizing vaccinations will help push anyone who is on the fence towards getting their children vaccinated. Most importantly, however, is that the government’s agenda will not force anyone to violate their rights, beliefs, or opinions.

  10. jefiore Says:

    My reaction to this post lies along the lines of Locke; the individual should have the freedom to choose that which affects them personally and their liberties should always be protected. The government should not be able to force an individual to do something simply because they claim to be protecting the common good. This brings up the question, what exactly is included in the “common good”? Should the government be allowed to decide you’re not feeding your children correctly under the claim that the “common good” requires all kids to eat x, y and z with every meal? No. So where does the line get drawn and when does concern for the common good out weight our individual liberties?

    This situation could also be analyzed through Anthony Appiah’s definition of cosmopolitanism. Perhaps vaccinating children is one way to keep them healthy, but is it the only way to do this? If we all agree on the moral obligation of promoting health and well being in our youth could there not be multiple ways of ensuring that? If someone firmly believes that vaccinations are harmful to children and that natural dietary supplements are equally effective at keeping sickness away, who is to say they’re wrong? Appiah would argue that it is acceptable to use alternative methods so long as there is an agreement on the importance of keeping children healthy.

    The last thing I would consider is the argument that children are not capable of taking care of themselves at a young age, so what happens when their guardians do not take the appropriate measures to ensure their health? Well under Appiah’s definition of cosmopolitanism there is still room for judgment of what is considered an acceptable method. With a moral agreement on ensuring good health for our youth certain procedures may be deemed unacceptable. If someone took it into their own hands to prescribe their child unsafe medication or if they decided to leave a serious illness untreated, cosmopolitanism allows the judgment of these methods and would not allow it.

    Ideally, the individual should be able to make the decision that is best for them, and the government should not be able to force any action on an individual based on concerns for the “common good.” Seeing as how we do not live in a perfect society, however, I argue that by using Appiah’s definition of cosmopolitanism an agreement could be reached that would ensure the health of our youth without forcing one method on everyone.

  11. madisonkraus Says:

    I personally believe that vaccines are an important way for our society to protect against epidemics and mass diseases of the past. However, although I don’t believe the decision not to vaccinate is a smart choice, I can see why some individuals would make it. The idea of giving your own body a dose of a dangerous disease in order to possibly prevent you from acquiring it in the future can appear silly and dangerous. Many people (including some religious/cultural groups) value the idea of a pure human body, and aim to never put anything dangerous inside it. I spent time with a family who could fall into this category and because of their beliefs they steered away from alcohol, drugs, and inorganic chemicals. They only consume and use items that occur organically in nature. We don’t have a problem if people choose to avoid using cleaning or food products that are processed with possibly dangerous chemicals, but when the same groups choose to abstain from vaccinations we are surprised. Following their logic, willingly allowing a disease manipulated by man into your body does seem absurd.
    Another important point is that as long as a majority of the population is still being vaccinated, those who refuse vaccinations are essentially only hurting themselves. If a majority of the population is vaccinated, a disease will not reach epidemic proportions. If a disease is brought into our country, those who have been previously vaccinated already have the immunizations to protect themselves. If people chose not to accept vaccinations, they are accepting the possibility that they will be susceptible to an outbreak.
    In short, I believe that ideally everyone should be vaccinated to protect our society. However, If people have religious or personal reasons to refuse a vaccination, I do not believe we can force them to put something into their body that they are morally against.

    • marckarpinos31 Says:

      I agree with your opinion that we can not force anyone to get vaccinated but on a more personal level. While it has been proven medically that giving you body a dose of a potential disease is a good way to become immune to it I am against the implementation of a law forcing everyone to receive vaccinations.

      When I was a sophomore in high school I received the flu shot at the beginning of “flu season” and in a matter of days, the small dose of the flu I received in that shot infected me. It was one of the worst weeks I can remember from my high school years as I had no appetite and I was forced to spend lifeless hours in bed. While I maybe a member of a very select few that were infected with the disease the shot was supposed to prevent, that select few are left to suffer. Even though my brother and sister did not get the flu as a result of the flu shot, I did and during that torturous week that was all that mattered to me.

      While my experience may be elementary and worthless to anyone who has not suffered from a flu shot it does bring up a good point as to why we, as citizens, should not be forced to take these shots. 1) Even thought the statistics prove that it is generally only a small population of users that are affected negatively by these vaccinations, if you are in that small population you hate every second of your life until you are cured. 2) The government realistically can not force its citizens to place anything it their bodies. While the government may be acting in the greater good of the common citizen it is not with in their rights to forceable take such an action.

      I also like what you said about the greater population receiving vaccination. If a majority of the population stays vaccinated, the few individuals like me who dislike the concept will not pose a threat to the greater good.

      In short I also agree that the government has no right forcing reluctant citizens to receive vaccinations even if it is for the greater good of the common man.

  12. srbarron Says:

    As a pharmacist’s daughter, vaccination has always been routine. When a new one is approved by the FDA, it is a given that I will be receiving it. I have never actually thought about not getting a shot or mist or the negative consequences.

    Many shots and vaccines are required to attend summer camp and are recommended to before enrolling in university. Camps force their campers to receive these specific vaccines in order to protect everyone at camp. This is also the case when you travel abroad: specific vaccines are vital to protect the traveler and as well as those they encounter upon their return. Since these scenarios require people to be vaccinated, why shouldn’t everyone be required? It’s more than just a personal preference, but protection for the entire community. Additionally, the more the immunity builds up now, the lesser need for the specific vaccine in the future.

    With drug companies finding ways to benefit society and prevent harmful deceases, the government should support them and provide subsidies to those companies and benefits to those who follow procedure and become vaccinated. They can also help those who cannot necessarily afford the vaccines to be able to receive them as well. Although we say that in a democracy people should have the rights to their body and what medication they administer to themselves, the economic and social benefits would surpass the cost of limiting this freedom.

    This is a point where the individual, civil society, and government overlap. In order to benefit the individual’s health and limit the health risk of others, the vaccines should be taken by everyone. If the government forces this to be done and provides economic incentives, society will be better off as a whole even without this specific right to choose to be vaccinated.

  13. bmjasper Says:

    Many of the economic and social problems that Americans now face are, in large part, due to the fact that we have transformed into a society where people selfishly protect their own benefits instead of making minor sacrifices for the common good. For the purposes of my argument, I will define the common good as “the sum of all societal conditions which are equally available and can be used to everyone’s advantage.” A few key components of the common good include an equal education system, a clean environment, affordable and available healthcare as well as the coexistence of all races and religions. But do any of these elements really exist in our society today?

    Confidence in our government is at an all time low. Our nation’s leaders are unwilling to jeopardize their careers and reputations in politics by attempting to bring about the change that they all know is required. Granted, creating and maintaining the common good will not happen overnight. In fact, it may take decades, or even centuries until we even start to get it right. However, this is the direction that our government needs to be taking us in. Undoubtedly it will require a sh*t load of work. But Americans have the resources and the ingenuity to turn this ideal into a new reality. Our own government is not alone in this irresponsible behavior. The game is changing. This is another one of those pivotal moments in our nation’s history where we are in control of our own fate. What’s the next move?

  14. amgille Says:

    I believe that different instances call for the need for legislation that promotes the common good over individual liberties. In this situation, the health of others is at risk, which infringes upon the right to life of others in society. Everyone should take the steps necessary to protect themselves, thus protecting overall society. People may argue that it infringes upon their rights, but might certain circumstances occur that may cause them to change their mind? For instance, if an epidemic did occur, would those who had believed that the government’s use of legislation on vaccines infringed upon their individual liberties argue with the government’s use of a quarantine to protect the general public from the disease? It could be argued that the government’s use of the vaccine legislation worked to reduce the amount of individual liberties limited in the future due to sickness and epidemics. Furthermore, in regards to the argument that vaccines lead to autism in children was debunked in 2010 as described in this Times article . Thus the fear of harming a child in the future cannot stand as a sufficient argument for the choice to not become vaccinated.

    On a broader note, this argument could be applied to the argument for universal health care. By providing for all citizens, one is caring for the entire population and for the common good of society. Yet, individuals want the best healthcare they can afford and should be able to obtain it according to their own wants. As of yet, the United States has not found the correct answer to this disagreement, though many other countries have determined that the common good is able to triumph over the individual liberties. So, in still stands whether the United States will take the side of the common good over the individual or vice versa.

  15. danieltarockoff Says:

    Usually, I am completely for “individual liberties” and against the idea that the government can just decide whenever they want to choose to control those liberties. I am, generally speaking, “pro-choice.” Not just “pro-choice” in the realm of abortion, as we all saw displayed so elegantly in the Diag the other day, but “pro-choice” for really any matter when it comes to deciding what to do with one’s OWN body. I really don’t liked the idea of the government having control over the one thing we truly own; ourselves. However, what seems to be a common fact is that most cases need to be judged on a case-to-case basis to truly determine what is “right.” And in this case, I actually believe the government should enact a law requiring those who are able to receive vaccinations to certain diseases. (This stance is, of course, disregarding the whole other set of issues regarding costs of vaccinations altogether.)

    I understand that many people just simply don’t want certain vaccinations, but there is a time when the government must step in and decide whether or not the safety of others is being affected. If there is a possibility of an increase in risk of a widespread pandemic for whatever disease, then it’s not only the right of the government to decide to enforce vaccinations but it is their duty. This is very similar to the BART case we just wrote our first essay on. A government agency recognized a possible threat to the safety of its citizens, and it acted how it had to act. We tend to have a parent-like relationship with our government; they want us to express ourselves and be who we are, but at the same time their number one concern is our safety, and if it means protecting us against our will, then so it is.

    At the same time, however, this makes me consider another issue. What about cigarette use? Clearly cigarettes are legal to smoke (18+), but why is the government failing to step in to protect its citizens from second hand smoke? Is second hand smoke, a leading cause for lung cancer and other vicious diseases, not as big of a “risk” as any other potential disease that a vaccination would prevent against? Apparently not. I personally don’t think so, yet at the same time I feel completely opposite when it comes to the vaccinations. Again, this is illustrating the need to evaluate these on a case-by-case basis.

    To me, it seems the justifications of those that are against vaccinations for themselves or their children seem trite and unsatisfactory. Therefore, in this case, safety trumps individual liberties.

  16. zschmitt17 Says:

    People should have the right to choose whether or not they receive vaccinations. The first flu shot that any child in my family ever had was two years ago. My brother, sister and I all received it on the same day. Our doctor recommened us to have it and my father agreed (only since we were already there). To my knowledge I never once had a serious case of the flu before this shot and questioned why I had to get it. Thinking about it my siblings never had anything serious either.

    There are many people in society that desperately want to receive these vaccinations for either themselves or their children, but do not have the oppertunity to. Before the government tries to pass any laws requiring everyone to receive them, they should first focus on making enough so that anyone who wants it can get it.

    This relates to doctors in a hospital. Before they can perform surgery or start giving a patient treatments they first need the patient’s consent. Without this consent they are legally not permitted to perform the action. Recently my father had cancer, in order to recover he was going to have to undergo kemo and radiation. It is his right to refuse kemo and other procedures even though the result could be death. If the government plans on forcing everyone to receive the vaccinations then in theory they should then make laws to force every cancer patient to go through kemo.

    Some vaccinations do have the ability to enhance immune systems and make you healthier, but so does eating right and exercises. If the government makes laws forcing everyone to receive vaccinations despite the individuals personally beliefs, then sooner or later laws could be put in place to force us to eat a certain way or exercise x amount of hours a day. I know this is a very radical idea, but in reality if more and more individual rights are being overlooked then it is all the more easier for more laws to be put in place.

  17. krsau Says:

    While talking about Tocqueville we heard his view that American’s were promoting their own philosophy, that we as a people are driven by self-interest, but modestly played off the fact that we do many altruistic acts seemingly of our own accord. Some have argued that people do these acts for the government so as to keep it strong since it so conveniently supports us pursuing our self interests. I believe their is also a strong sentiment of empathy to our fellow country men.

    The majority of people in America still strongly believe in vaccinations, and that all those that are healthy enough should receive them. People support these vaccinations so as not to contract these diseases themselves, amongst their family members, and to keep society strong as a whole. Fortunately I believe that most of these people are also strongly against any law forcing a needle into our veins.

    Tocqueville was right that we claim we are self interested and therefore we support our government which supports us. On the other hand we are self interested and therefore we wish to support a society that supports us, and a healthy society is a better society. Maybe if we had placed vaccinations in a bubble on the chart today separating Individuality, Society, and Government most people would have placed it somewhere between society and individuality. Others might have placed it completely in government (a little to Big Brother if you ask me). While others might have placed it firmly into individuality believing it to a be a personal choice, which I believe it is also. Yet for my personal choice I believe people should receive vaccinations so as to protect society and therefore myself, but I definitely will not be told to do so.

  18. jordanwylie Says:

    As an Elementary Education major, I am in elementary schools and preschools for about 60-70% of my week. I see students sharing food, toys, and materials. The teachers and custodial staff are not able to disinfect quick enough. Germs spread through the schools like wild fire. While this article focuses on contracting an illness from unvaccinated children in the doctors office, I cannot help but think of all the other places students could contract a disease from.

    Students are in school for majority of their day. While it is required for children to have certain vaccines and shots before they start school, not all vaccines are required. In schools with low income levels, many students may not have had the opportunity to have all these vaccines. For parents without health care, having their child vaccinated might not be within their means. These are the children we have to worry about has well. These students are at risk, not because of a conscious decision by their parents, but a financial one.

    School is supposed to be a place where students can feel welcome and safe. No parent wants to send their child to a school where they are in danger. Same goes for an institution that is riddled with diseases and germs. Parents and students should not have to fear entering a doctors office in fear of contracting a fatal disease, nor should they have to worry about going in to their child’s school.

    While I am a firm believer in civil liberties, I am a bigger advocate for children. No one wants to have another epidemic in this country. It would be devastating to have a large portion of our population be wiped out by a disease that is completely preventable. In order to protect the population, I believe certain vaccines should be required. It is required to get vaccines when we go abroad to protect ourselves, don’t we want to be just as protected in our own homes?

  19. Skye Says:

    As I was reading this article, I was reminded of an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. In the episode, a mother doesn’t vaccinate her child, the child gets sick, she doesn’t know (because measles is a dormant virus even when it’s still contagious), allows him to go to the playground, infects another child (too young to vaccinate), and the younger child dies.

    I think that vaccinations are important to our society, because a lot of these diseases we get vaccinations for have killed family members. I know that personally, my dad’s sister died because of Polio. Vaccines are made to help us and move us forward as a society.

    When you’re older, as well, some schools will not allow you to start school unless you’ve had your vaccinations, so not vaccinating is just really going to cause more problems in the future. I also don’t think anyone should take the chance with not vaccinating (even with some of the “extinct” viruses), because it could cause some serious damage. 

    It is your personal choice whether or not to vaccinate, but just remember that (like the in Law and Order: SVU episode), sometimes your decision can affect others or prevent you from doing something important later in your life. I know that an episode of a TV show has no real standing, I just think it’s interesting. I don’t think the government should tell you you HAVE to vaccinate, but the system we have now is okay. You don’t have to vaccinate your child if you don’t want to, but it will be very hard for them to go to school when they get older if they are not vaccinated.

  20. ngamin1614 Says:

    I think we can all agree on the fact that getting vaccinated is a good thing. It protects you and it protects others. The benefits (not getting sick, not spreading the sickness around), outweigh the costs here (some time out of your day and about 30 bucks). Yet, I still didn’t get a flu shot this year, and I don’t know many who did. I recently read an article which stated that demand for flu shots is going down. Flu shots are now coming with discounts on other things like food or other things in the store. These discount prices obviously give more incentive to get a flu shot. And, the flu can be pretty dangerous, the elderly and infants in particular are susceptible to really bad cases of the flu. Yet, again, many of us still do not get flu shots.

    Personally, I think the government has no rights to require people to get a flu shot. The flu already has a low mortality percentage and even though it could harm infants and the elderly, it has a pretty low chance of doing so. Now, I think that serious diseases are another story. Some vaccinations are pretty important, these would include the measles, tetanus, and polio vaccinations for example. These vaccinations are important because they either spread like wildfire if people do not get vaccinated (measles) or they are an extremely dangerous (polio). These vaccinations are a whole different situation than the flu shots I mentioned above. Polio in particular can cause full body paralysis and is highly contagious. In this case, perhaps it would be okay for government intervention here. The government could require a vaccination so that it could improve general welfare in its country. These diseases are far too dangerous to not have everyone vaccinated. They are not only dangerous to an individual, but to a whole society. So, perhaps a law requiring certain vaccinations for ONLY serious diseases might be okay. HOWEVER, I will say that if a law ever comes to pass that requires people to get certain vaccinations, those vaccinations should be either free or very close to free. I don’t know if we can ever get that to happen. It would require massive government spending. Vaccinations are already probably subsidized by the government because they help the general welfare, but if we wanted to make the vaccinations free, it would require massive subsidies, which the government may not be willing to provide (especially in this economy). And, if the government is unwilling to make vaccinations free while creating a law requiring vaccinations, I would be against it. It would be rather unfair to the people that do not have much money to have them shell out 60-80 dollars per vaccination. So, in conclusion, although flu shots can be helpful, the choice to get a flu shot should always be up to the individual. However, more dangerous diseases may have to have required vaccinations, but only if those vaccinations are very cheap.

  21. madelinedunn Says:

    I think that passing a law such as this could almost be considered inhumane. Forcing everyone to get stuck with a sharp needle so that we can “protect the people” just does not seem to make much sense to me. These diseases that we are protecting ourselves from are just going to keep on changing and mutating.

    As of right now we have enough people to sustain on 1.5 planet earths. That is a great deal of people living in such a small place: we cannot escape disease. By coming up with all of these new ways to keep ourselves “safe”, such as hand sanitizer for example, we are really just allowing a stronger strain the right of passage.

    There is one vaccine in particular that is being pushed by some medical professionals and that is the cervical cancer vaccine. This vaccine is meant to help women, however it has reportedly been crippling and even killing some who receive the treatment. Here is a link to the article: Once you inject, you can’t go back. How are you supposed to know whether you, your best friend, or you little sister will be the next person to have such a horrible reaction to this preventative medicine?

    Here is a list of the common ingredient found in a typical season flu vaccination (came from article link above):

    — 25 micrograms of mercury (thimerosal), a known neurotoxin; one microgram is considered toxic; according to the NIH, “mercury and all of its compounds are toxic, exposure to excessive levels can permanently damage or fatally injure the brain and kidneys;” even “exposures to very small amounts” can also cause “allergic reactions, neurological damage and death;” it’s also linked to autism;
    — aluminum hydroxide and phosphate, known to be linked to some neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease; the Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports x-ray evidence of pulmonary fibrosis among workers studied; it also reports that patients undergoing long-term kidney dialysis develop speech disorders, dementia, or convulsions;
    — formaldehyde, a known carcinogen according to the National Cancer Institute; it’s also linked to upper respiratory tract problems and effects on lymphatic and hematopoietic systems (relating to human blood cells);
    — gelatin, polysorbate 80 and resin – ingredients causing severe allergic reactions;
    — ammonium sulfate, a suspected gastrointestinal, liver, and respiratory toxicant and neurotoxicant;
    — sorbitol, a suspected gastrointestinal and liver toxicant;
    — phenoxyethanol (antifreeze), a suspected developmental and reproductive toxicant;
    — beta-propiolactone, a known carcinogen and suspected gastrointestinal, liver, respiratory, skin and sense organ toxicant;
    — gentamycin, an antibiotic;
    — triton X100, a strong detergent;
    — animal tissues and fluids, including potentially contaminated horse blood, rabbit brain, dog kidney, monkey kidney, chick embryo, chicken egg, duck egg, pig blood, and porcine (pig) protein/tissue;
    — calf and fetal bovine serum;
    — macerated cancer cells;
    — diploid cells from aborted fetal tissue

    Now that is scary! Why add all of this? Does anyone reading this comment know for fact what good any of these ingredients can do all lumped together in a vaccine? Not to mention that these vaccinations, just like almost every other pharmaceutical drug out there, are put onto the market before any long term effects studies can be done.

    By putting these drugs on the market as soon as they become “approved” there are many people who benefit, however there are also those who don’t. Thousands of people die every year simply from taking their prescribed medicine properly. That doesn’t even count the number of serious injuries that were not fatal. Most of the time the potential side effects listed on the outside of a bottle or rambled off at the end of a commercial are must worse the the actual condition.

    So why are we putting ourselves in harms way? Is it really to keep ourselves healthy? Do we do it for the common good of mankind like Ian suggested? Or is it because most of us don’t realize the potential risks and blindly trust the FDA to keep us out of harms way?

  22. sbsmoler92692 Says:

    I am torn with this recent controversy. While I can understand why the government would want to establish laws that would protect the common good, and help protect everyone from horrible diseases, I can easily understand parents reasoning as to why they might not want to vaccinate their child. Though some may not be able to afford adequate healthcare to immunize their child, other parents are being plain selfish in not protecting their children against these diseases. That is where I feel that it would be acceptable to settle for a medium between the two extremes. They should establish immunizations at a reduced price or available for everyone to afford, and given in local places, yet make it up to the individual in order to get them. Everyone will have equal and guaranteed access to the immunizations, just it is the right of the individual for them to choose to protect themselves and their children against disease. Though I do not think it is fair if a parent will decide on behalf of their child, for whatever personal reasons they may have, to not immunize them or protect them against diseases they could encounter or become prone to, it is their right as a legal guardian to decide such things until they become a legal adult at 18. If you weigh the pros and cons for everything, I would most likely agree with Hobbes and acknowledge government intervention with this situation. If would be for the benefit of every person, to immunize them and their children and protect them. Since it would be available to everyone, and mandatory, it would be easily regulated and rationalized. Less outbreaks would result from more immunizations, which would additionally be of benefit for the good of the society.

  23. kelseymlee Says:

    A few years ago, I remember reading an interview in TIME featuring Jenny McCarthy, which mainly discussed her claims that vaccines contribute to a rise in autism. Her son, Skye, was diagnosed with autism, and she believes that the vaccines he received are the main cause of it. As a result, it seems she has been on a mission to persuade parents to think twice before allowing their kids to get certain vaccines, because she believes vaccines cause autism, despite the lack of scientific evidence to prove it. Here is the link to the interview:,8599,1888718,00.html

    While McCarthy admits in the interview that she is not “anti-vaccine”, I still find her answers to some of the questions appalling, and her effort to persuade parents not to get their kids certain vaccinations creates a danger for the rest of society. For instance, when she is questioned about the re-emergence of polio in certain regions of the world after those regions banned vaccines, she says, sadly enough, she does believe some diseases need to re-emerge again so we “realize we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe.”

    I feel that there is a major flaw in her argument here. How does banning the use of certain vaccinations, allowing deadly diseases to re-emerge, prove that vaccinations are unsafe? I understand her frustration with vaccinations, because she believes that is what caused her son’s autism, but I do not believe she should feel it is her right to have other people literally die for her fight against vaccines. Although McCarthy may argue otherwise, there is no scientific evidence to prove her claim that vaccines cause autism.

    If people like McCarthy believe it is in their best interest not to get their children vaccinated, then they will put the health of the entire public at risk. Diseases we previously thought we had eliminated will start to re-appear, and people will suffer. Yes, I believe that people should have individual liberties, but putting the health of the entire population at risk is not included in a person’s individual liberties. Enforcing vaccinations is a perfect example of when the government should step in to protect the common good before individual rights. When it is the safety of the public versus individual liberties, the safety of the public should always prevail. People do not have the right to put the health of other people at risk by not getting their own children vaccinated simply because of an unproven medical claim they hold. Until there is actual scientific proof that shows vaccinations cause autism, I refuse to believe that those parents against vaccines have a legitimate excuse. We already have proof enough that the absence of vaccinations can kill.

  24. aecorwin Says:

    It seems that most people seem to believe that the decision whether or not to get shots should be a personal decision. I, however, disagree. Using Mill’s thoughts, we can see that it could possibly be considered a case where these people have the right to express their own opinions about whether or not to give shots, but if you are to call in to play his argument of utilitarianism, (greatest good for the greatest number) it is obvious that vaccinations should be mandatory. If the majority of people were to choose not to get vaccinations, it could cause a health epidemic so widespread and rampant that it could take a very long time to stop. Do we want another black plague? Fever of 1793?
    Our modern society has made so much progress in the medical field and has effectively eliminated a number of diseases. Why would consciously choose we do anything that could bring them back? I will admit that I am the biggest pain ever when getting shots. I scream, I cry, I don’t let them get anywhere near me. There have been instances when I have had doctors and nurses pinning me down just to get a finger prick. Despite all of my fears, however, I always give in as I realize the benefits of the shot way outweigh the half-second of pain I get from it.
    Yes, there may be an argument that infant vaccination may have links to autism, but it seems to me that the benefits outweigh the risks. Yes, the amount of mercury in shots may not be a good thing to expose to infants, but shots are not the only thing that has mercury. Will a parent who believes this never feed their child fish? Fish are proven to have high levels of mercury. Fish are also extremely healthy and have countless positive side effects. In fact, many people take fish oil vitamins on a daily basis. Yes, there is a risk. But, in life, everything has risks.
    I, personally, would much rather take the risk that my child develops autism than the risk of my child developing measles or mumps or meningitis or some other disease that could be potentially fatal. It is shown that about 5 of every 10,000 people develop autism. The odds are definitely in your favor. And, if your child were to develop autism, is it really the end of the world? You get to show your child more attention, learn about him/her in a different way, and spend more time with your child than you are likely to spend with a “mainstream/ normal” child. Yes, your child may be hard to handle at times, but isn’t every child? If you are making the decision to have children, you are expected to give that child unconditional love. It’s like planning to go to a small liberal arts school, but ending up at Michigan. Its not what I had planned, but it’s the path that I ended up taking. It veers from what I had expected, but there’s nothing wrong with it. I love Michigan and looking back I know that it doesn’t matter which path you take, as long as you end up where you’re supposed to.
    My friend at GWU is currently undergoing a situation that related to this. She is petrified of shots. In fact, she is probably the only person in the whole world that is worse at getting shots than I am. She refused to get some of her shots at her last doctor visit, but GWU requires certain shots for all of its students. She is being sent daily reminders by the university to get her shots, but she refuses. Eventually, she knows she will have to get her shots, however. Although her own discomfort may seem to be the most important thing in the world at this point, she realizes that the safety of others should outweigh her own physical discomfort.
    So, although it may sacrifice a bit of everyone’s right to expression, if the greater good will be harmed by this expression, it is definitely ok to put utilitarianism over freedom of expression (in this case…)

  25. kristinamacek Says:

    The issue of vaccinations is a very sensitive one for many people. This is one of the few issues where I can firmly understand someone being on either side of the issue. It really comes down to which is more important, the public good or individual rights? A small child who is too young to be vaccinated could legitimately become very ill or die because they come into contact with an older child who was not vaccinated who becomes infected. Should this child face these risks? Should a parent be forced to have their child injected with a potentially harmful disease? It seems there is no clear answer on this issue.

    I recall watching an episode of Law and Order a while back that dealt with this issue. A child who was too young to be vaccinated became infected and died because they came into contact with an infected child who “should” have been vaccinated. The unvaccinated child’s mother was charged with manslaughter because of this. Is this truly fair? I’m not sure. All I know is that it was certainly not fair for an innocent child to lose their life.

    I think that vaccines are highly advisable and that not vaccinating children can have dire consequences. However, I am incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of forcing parents to have their kids vaccinated. I believe that this is a violation of individual rights, however I wish that parents would just vaccinate their kids without being forced to do so, so this wouldn’t have become such an issue in the first place.

  26. dkap7 Says:

    When the author states that the conflict over vaccination deals with the argument between “common good vs. rights of the individual”, I view this as an invalid statement. My upbringing preached the importance of health, and every year I would get my flu shots and all the other shots that were mandatory for me to move up a year in school. Although vaccinations are different than flu shots, in the sense that they are needed only once, they are both small doses of a dead virus that are used to build up an infants, for vaccination, or any individual’s, for the flu, immune system.

    When discussing the authors claim that this is a conflict between the “common good vs. rights of individuals”, I would not only argue that vaccinating children is for the common good, in the sense that even if an outbreak of one of these unlikely illnesses occur, more people will be protected making it hard for the illness to spread, but also that banning the ability to get vaccinations would be a violation of the freedoms offered to Americans. This ties directly in with the arguments of freedom of expression that Mill states in “No Apology”. One of the conflicts discussed is whether or not vaccinations are beneficial for the common good. The opposition to the argument over vaccinations believes there is a “possible link between infant vaccination and autism. While no conclusive evidence has been gathered proving this link, nothing has disproven it, either”. Since no evidence has proven this true, I feel that Mill would argue that not even the government has the right to decide whether this is in the interest of the people. No single entity should have the power to make decisions, when the evidence is so minuscule. Mill would definitely argue that it would be a violation of rights to stop the practice of vaccination.

    In spite of the dispute over the safety of vaccinations, they have proven effective since the very beginning. Diseases like polio, which still are present in foreign countries, have been ostracized from American society. Although I may be biased, I believe that vaccinations are a positive medicinal practice. Even if someone were to argue against that fact, I don’t feel that it is valid to argue that vaccinations go against both “common good” and “rights of individuals”. There just is not enough evidence to make a legitimate argument.

  27. blakesimons Says:

    Personally, I think I’m a little torn with this issue. The premise of this debate is over if government should support the common good first or individual liberties first; however, in this specific case involving vaccinations, the basis of the argument lies much deeper. It’s hard to pick a side and form my own opinions when neither option seems reasonable. How can the government force citizens to get vaccinations when there has been intense controversy insisting that these vaccinations can cause serious health problems, such as autism and cancer? On the other hand, it seems completely reasonable for the government to try to eliminate and decrease the spread of serious diseases, such as measles, mumps, and rubella and chicken pox.

    Looking more specifically and deeper into the debate over government support for common good versus government support for individual liberties, there cannot, quite simply, be a side that wins. Society can only be successful when government creates the correct equilibrium in supplying an optimal amount of support for the common good of society, while supplying an optimal amount of support for individual liberties.

    Now, this “equilibrium” that I referred to can easily be applied to the situation at hand: vaccinations for all or vaccinations by choice. In my opinion, the government has no right to force citizens to be vaccinated with vaccinations that have been under extreme skepticism and controversy; however, government needs to support the common good. This is why instead of making government mandates and laws forcing vaccinations, the government needs to be proactive. Using the media to help them, the government must support vaccinations and informing the general public on the safety and benefits of said vaccinations. It must remain in the hand of the individual if a vaccination is needed and wanted (individual liberties supported), but the government can give a valiant effort in encouraging citizens and supporting vaccinations (common good supported).

  28. sarahspath23 Says:

    I can understand the issue at hand, however I believe that whether children should be vaccinated is completely an individual choice. An issue such as vaccinations are the decision of the parents, who keep in mind their child’s best interest.

    There is a stickiness, though, of when the government should get involved in a parent-child relationship. Generally we think that parents are the ones who know what is best for their children and that the government does not have the right to step in and tell parents how to raise their children. However, there is one notable exception to this line of thought, which is when the safety of a child is threatened by the parents or because of a situation that the parents have allowed. In this case, getting vaccinations could seem like a situation in which the child is possibly harmed. I would venture to say that most people would not see a parent’s decision of whether or not to get their child vaccinated as threatening the child’s safety. Therefore, I think that it is not the government’s place to pass a law mandating vaccinations for children.

    The other part of this issue is the fact that if many children are not vaccinated, diseases that were once thought to be gone could reappear and affect the health of many others. In this sense, it may be for the common good to mandate vaccinations for children. It would seem to me though, that this kind of law would not be necessary for two reasons. The first being that there are not been such a law yet, and many parents have voluntarily taken their children to get vaccinations as long as they had the money/health coverage to do so. This may be because parents already recognize that the health benefits outweigh the costs or because many doctors, who parents tend to trust, recommend that children receive certain vaccinations. Now with the new health care plan in the U.S., it is likely that even more parents will voluntarily do so.

    Secondly, there are already some rules in place to ensure that children are vaccinated. Personally, I remember having to fill out a form before each year of school confirming that I had received certain vaccinations. Since most children do attend schools with such rules, it is likely that children are already getting the vaccinations for measles, chicken pox, etc.

    I just want to quickly discuss the people who oppose vaccinations due to a possible link to autism or due to religious beliefs. There is no significant evidence that there is any link between receiving vaccinations and autism. I’m sure almost all of us have had vaccinations for chicken pox or measles and have not had any damaging effects. Even though I disagree that this link to autism is probable, it is a parent’s right to believe this and not allow their child to get vaccinations. This does remind me slightly of Mill, who thought that everyone should have a right to express their opinions because a view that is in the minority could have some truth to it or at least help us understand better the common belief on the subject.

    As for people with religious beliefs that go against vaccinations, it is their legal right through freedom of religion to believe whatever they would like and use those beliefs to raise their children. This is of course as long as the children’s safety is not being threatened. In this case especially, it is clear to me that the government should not step in to mandate vaccinations because it would be interfering with a parent’s right to their religious beliefs.

    Overall, I would say that the government should not pass a law to mandate vaccinations for children because it is a private choice and would not have a significant effect anyways since there has been no serious decline in children receiving vaccinations.

  29. beaurh Says:

    As said above, I believe that government should and cannot force any individual into any potentially threatening situations, as many anti-vaccination individuals believe vaccinations to be. The question is not if the government should force vaccinations upon us, but how can the government make individuals realize the importance of vaccinating your children.
    Along with brianfrankel’s post about incentivizing vaccinations as a means of convincing many to vaccinate, teaching and educating individuals about the importance of vaccination is necessary as well. Many opposed to vaccination simply do not understand the importance and necessity of it. People read in papers and online that vaccinations are linked to autism, and other debilitating diseases and worry that their child will suffer. These people do not realize that there is no conclusive evidence linking the two, and need to be educated about the harm they are putting their children in by not being vaccinated. I believe that individuals, if they refuse, should have the option to be educated by a doctor of the benefits of vaccination.
    Also, there is the question of differing vaccinations. Vaccinations for hepatitis, smallpox, and polio are much different than flu and chickenpox vaccines. So there is now the question of: If the government does force vaccinations on the public, which vaccinations and why?

  30. matthewlocascio Says:

    The government has the right and duty to protect the common good and the greater population. But at the same time, the government can’t infringe on the rights of the individual. In this case, parents refusing to vaccinate their children is a conflict between rights of the individual and the duty of the government.

    I feel that the government can’t force parents to vaccinate their children, because it is a personal choice and should remain outside the bounds of government control. At the same time, I feel that the government can control if children who aren’t vaccinated can enter the public schools. As a common, social good, the public school system is controlled by the government. If they decide to protect the greater good by enforcing children to be vaccinated to enter the school system, it is within the rights of the government. In this situation, the government is not infringing on rights, they are leaving it open to the parents to choose to vaccinate their children or not. At the same time, they are protecting the greater good by having vaccinated children in the schools.

    Some may argue that it still infringes on rights because it is “basically” forcing parents to vaccinate their children to get them in public schools. Yes, it is somewhat true, but there is a more important point here. The government has to be able to govern, and make decisions for the greater good; that is the point of a government. The officials in office have more information on the subject, so should be justified in making an educated decision. If civilians want to utilize a common good (school system), they must adhere to the regulations put in place by those who are actually in charge of that good. And to address another point quickly, doctors have the most information possible to advocate for vaccinations; if a doctor says vaccines are OK, then why wouldn’t you trust them? But that is besides the point. The government can’t infringe on the rights of the individual but still must provide common goods to help the greater good. In this scenario, they are not forcing parents to get their children vaccinated, but are enforcing vaccination to go to public school (to protect the greater good from outbreaks). Both sides can compromise here to get the job done.

  31. junjc8 Says:

    It is very difficult to answer this question about whether or not the common good should be prioritized before the individual’s rights and freedoms or vice versa. Inquiries like these relate to so many circumstances in the world.

    For instance, should Congress raise taxes on all its citizens to ensure our health benefits like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicade? Also, this money could help the government pay civil engineers to construct more efficient roads and to give schools the funding they deserve to better educate the next generation. On the other hand, should Congress not raise taxes and have an extremely tight budget? This would severely limit the number of funds for many important organizations out there like American Red Cross. Additionally, this would mean that individuals would have more money to spend and also invest in their savings. This could possibly stimulate the economy and ultimately step out of the recession in America. Both sides of the argument have legitimate reasons for their beliefs.

    Consider John Stuart Mill’s point of view: He would place a heavy emphasis on the concept of utilitarianism, which would support the side of the majority. Basically speaking, “The greatest good for the greatest number,” as stated by Jeremy Bentham is the rule that applies here, or what has now has been replaced with the more contemporary term, “common good.” Mill asserts that whatever creates the most happiness for the most number of people will ultimately triumph any other explanations opposing it. Mill would support the law the government passes for the vaccination because the majority of the public will be healthier.

    Someone like John Locke will not support Mill’s theory of utilitarianism because he thinks the personal liberty of an individual includes choice. Therefore, government should not mandate laws that limit or curtail freedom of expression in any case except when it is violating other people’s rights, freedom, or property. The individual thus has a choice in whether or not to receive the vaccination by his or her preferences or beliefs. However, this point could even be challenged if people believe it is violating others’ health by not receiving the vaccination shots.

    I would favor more on the side of John Locke because sometimes the common good misrepresents the minority. Certain ethnic groups may be ignored. Although it might be fair to say the most happiness for the greatest number is legitimate, not everyone will be happy. To prioritize individual liberties first before the common good will result in a more just system in which people can be happy without leaving others unhappy. Therefore, I think the concept of utilitarianism should not be enforced in the aspects of our democratic society. Vaccinations should be a personal choice to be made by the individual in which the government or other people have no say. It is our personal right to possess this kind of liberty.

  32. Connor Baharozian Says:

    My Public Health class that I am taking this semester has given me a much different view on vaccination than I previously had. Before a series of lectures on vaccination in this class, I never actually considered that people didn’t get vaccinated even with the resources available. I honestly believed until recently that all people who could, would be vaccinated because they recognized the immense health benefits it provides. Vaccination greatly reduces the prevalence (proportion of persons in a population who have a particular disease at a point in time) and incidence (a measure of the number of new cases in a given amount of time) of infectious diseases. Through the use of vaccination, we have eliminated small pox from the world. Nobody in the entire world has had smallpox since 1977 and the only two places smallpox remains are in laboratories in the Center for Disease Control and a Russian lab in Siberia. To eliminate small pox, medical teams travelled all over the world searching for outbreaks of the disease. When they encountered it, they vaccinated all associates of the infected person. Through these efforts, vaccination exterminated a disease that killed hundreds of thousands. We have also eliminated measles and polio in the United States through vaccination though other countries around the world still have cases of both.
    When people refuse to be vaccinated, they put the whole population at risk for a disease. The concept of “herd immunity” prevents people such as babies too young to be vaccinated from succumbing to diseases. When certain individuals refuse vaccination for whatever reason, they provide pockets for diseases to manifest themselves. If the percentage of immunity in a population falls too low, outbreaks are very likely. This puts even vaccinated people at risk, because as we know through experience, no vaccine is perfect.
    Some people have become fearful of vaccines due to rumors that state that vaccines can lead to harmful conditions themselves. Rumors in the past have cropped up saying that vaccination causes autism and infertility. When there are reports that scientists are researching these connections, paranoia sets in for people even though these correlations are almost always incorrect. Instead of seeing the BIG positives that vaccines provide, they see the tiny to non-existent risks of immunization. With increased fear of vaccines, pharmaceutical companies are becoming hesitant to spend lots of money making them. The high costs of creating vaccines also make pharmaceutical companies reluctant to invest because the prices for vaccines tend to be low, driven down by government and competing vaccines.
    By refusing vaccination, people put their health in the faith that a very high percentage of the rest of their community has been vaccinated. Often, parents in wealthy communities are the ones that refuse vaccination for their children. This is the case because, due to socioeconomic standing and increased educational levels, they have heard of the ‘correlations’ between vaccination and harmful side effects. People need to recognize that they put everyone in danger by refusing vaccination. Why not have government require vaccination for all citizens? This may be extreme, but from a utilitarian view, it provides the greatest good for the greatest number.
    Schneider, Mary-Jane. Introduction to Public Health: Third Edition. Sudbury,
    Massachusetts: Josh and Bartlett Publishers, 2011. Print.

  33. shmily4k Says:

    Upon reading this, the first thing that I have thought of is the vaccination form that I was required to fill out prior to my transfer to University of Michigan. It reminds me of how many vaccines I had received, such as measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, meningitis, polio, tetanus-diphtheria etc. It also reminds of how painful they were when I had my vaccinations. This is also one of the reasons why parents pursue vaccine exemption rights. Moreover, they are also concerned about the health problems after the vaccination.

    In my opinion, it is up to the parents’ choices to receive vaccines or not. They have the right and individual liberty to choose if they want to take the risk of not getting vaccinated. If they have chosen to take the risks, the government has no right to change their wills. Similarly, the doctor should not ban people that are not vaccinated. They should not interfere with the individual choice in getting vaccinated or not. This is in agreement with Mill’s argument: who can define what is good for the public and what is common good? Just because the majority thinks it is good for the society if everyone is vaccinated doesn’t mean the minority can’t choose not to be vaccinated. The government can persuade people and launch campaigns to promote the need and obligations to take vaccine, instead of passing laws to force them to do something that is against their will and interferes with their rights.

  34. Lilian Baek Says:

    The idea of mandatory vaccination strikes fear in my people. However, which is scarier to you- coming down with deadly bacterial sickness or being required to get a vaccination against it? Clearly, we need to get our priorities straight when it comes to mandating or requiring vaccines. When there is a fatal disease that is easily prevented by a vaccine, the shot wins over our dislike of being told what to do. However, I realize there are many issues with making vaccinations mandatory as well. There are very rare but very severe, even fatal reactions to the vaccine. Even though there are a lot more fatalities from the actual flu than there are from severe vaccine reactions, the vaccine imposes an element of risk nevertheless. Seeing as though our nation has been founded on the constitution, we should all have the freedom to choose between risking ourselves with the disease and receiving a flu vaccine. Furthermore, patients who come into a doctor’s office or hospital take a small risk each time they enter. However, not from the doctor (most of the times). There’s a greater chance at catching something from another patient. So, if the government makes vaccinations mandatory what is next? Denying people who haven’t get a flu vaccine from entering?

    Another problem at hand is if certain universities are requiring students to get certain shots, why aren’t health care workers? Less than half of health care workers get a flu vaccine each year when they are the ones in contact with the sick the most. Is it because they are knowledgeable on the side effects and don’t want to put themselves at risk? Or is it because they are a firm believer of not contracting any illnesses? Who really knows? Another issue surrounds the true effectiveness of a vaccine. Vaccines are acknowledged to not protect against the diseases, but are rather designed to prevent it. Thus, you may still see yourself contracting the very diseases in which the vaccine was to make you immune. With a questionable outcome like this one, some may go so far as to refer to mandatory vaccinations as mandatory drugging. In my opinion, I believe that self-quarantine is a much better and safer method for protecting groups of people and individuals. This gives you the right to select if you wish to be vaccinated or not. With all of these issues taken into consideration, I believe vaccinations should not be deemed mandatory.

    For more information on self-quarantine visit:

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