The liberal stronghold of California is trailblazing the encroaching new practice and recently passed laws mandating that children and adults must have certain immunizations before being able to attend schools or work in certain professions. The longstanding religious and philosophical exemptions that protect freedom of choice have been systematically crushed by the state.
California’s Senate Bill 277 went into effect on July 1st, 2016, and marked the most rigid requirements ever instituted for vaccinations. The law forces students to endure a total of 40 doses to complete the 10 federally recommended vaccines while allowing more to be added at any time. Any family that doesn’t go along will have their child barred from attending licensed day care facilities, in-home daycares, public or private schools, and even after school programs.
Over the years, California has developed a reputation for pushing vaccines on their youth. Assembly Bill 499 was passed in 2011 and lowered the age of consent for STD prevention vaccines to just 12 years old. Included in the assortment of shots being administered was the infamous Gardasil, which just a few years later was at the center of a lawsuit that yielded the victims a $6 million settlement from the U.S. government, which paid out funds from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
The Vaccinate All Children Act of 2015 is an attempt to implement this new standard nationwide, and although it has stalled in the House, it will likely be reintroduced the next time the country is gripped by the fear of a pandemic.
The debate surrounding vaccinations is commonly framed as a moral struggle between the benefits to the collective and the selfish preferences of the individual. But since the outbreak scares of Zika, measles, and ebola, the rhetoric has taken a turn toward authoritarianism.
It’s commonly stated by the CDC and most mainstream doctors that the unvaccinated are putting the health of everyone else at risk, but the truth isn’t so black and white. The herd immunity theory has been consistently used to validate the expansion of vaccine programs, but it still doesn’t justify the removal of choice from the individual.
The classic exchange of freedom for perceived safety is a no brainer for the millions of Americans who are willing to use government to strap their neighbors down and forcibly inject them for the greater good. Anyone who expresses concern about possible side effects is immediately branded as conspiratorial or anti-science. Yet controversial claims that certain vaccine variants cause neurological disorders like autism have led some people to swear off inoculations altogether. This all-or-nothing dynamic has completely polarized the issue and prevents any reasonable discussion from taking place. Either you accept all of the CDC’s recommended 69 doses of 16 vaccines between birth and age 18, or you want to bring back measles, polio, and probably the black plague.
On the other extreme side of the debate, if you fail to acknowledge all vaccines as dangerous, you’re an ignorant sheep. Through the internet, disinformation has become widespread and created a movement of people that have written off all the benefits accomplished through immunizations. These individuals are unable or unwilling to separate the science from the shady institutions that develop and distribute new vaccines. Even if thimerosal and mercury based preservatives cause adverse reactions in some patients, it doesn’t detract from the advantages vaccine technology provides. In this debate, like most others in the US, both sides are swept up in emotion and ignorance.
Regardless, the public’s trust in vaccinations has been eroded by the reputations of those companies producing them. Pharmaceutical giants like Merck and Pfizer make billions from the distribution of these shots, and the potential profits after a mandate are enough to corrupt the morals of almost anyone. In one example, former CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding left her post at the government agency in 2009 to work in Merck’s vaccine division. An investigative report published by the British Medical Journal last year found the CDC downplays its ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
Further, by buying the support of politicians like Hillary Clinton — who received more donations from pharmaceutical companies and their employees than any other candidate this year — these huge companies are able to expand their influence in directing government policy.
Maintaining control over what we put into our own bodies is a fundamental right, but for now, standing up to these government decrees only means ostracism from the education system and criticism from peers. In the future, however, the punishments for disobedience will likely only grow stricter.
An Orange County doctor named Bob Sears is already in the crosshairs of California’s medical board after excusing a two-year-old from future vaccinations. The mother expressed concern that her daughter had an adverse reaction to a previous shot, describing the child as becoming limp “like a ragdoll” for 24 hours after the last dose. Dr. Sears’ alternative treatment recommendations break from the rules dictated by S.B. 277, and now his reputation, as well as his career, are in jeopardy. This new authority to strip doctors of their medical licenses for simply going against the state-imposed standards opens the door for the persecution of medical professionals who resist any government regulation.
A vaccination is an invasive medical procedure that can have different effects on each and every individual. The Nuremberg Code’s first principle is voluntary consent, but it seems the lessons of history have been completely forgotten by today’s leaders. The transition of these shots from “recommended” to “required” is well underway, and those who think the ends justify the means are willing to forcibly make sure everyone else complies.
The new benchmark set by California symbolizes a precedent that could be mimicked across the nation. Without having the discretion to choose which medications are injected into your body — or your child’s — how can anyone convince themselves they are free? This overreach and collusion can often be dismissed as a trivial issue, but the fact that voluntary consent is under attack speaks volumes to the extent that state power has metastasized.