Vaccines at Latin: A Community's Responsibility?

Henry Pollock Personal liberty or communal responsibility? Individual rights or public order? Decisions like these dominate innumerable aspects of life, one of which recently became a part of mine. In preparation for my project week trip to Tanzania, I visited a clinic to see what preventative vaccines or medicines I might use. While my typhoid vaccine and malaria medicine did not provoke thought, the third immunization I received did: the flu shot. While for me it is a no-brainer, many people believe that the flu shot, or vaccinations of any kind, are detrimental. In thinking about this difference of opinion in the Latin context I happened upon the root question—should Latin students and faculty be required to have vaccinations? As a background, throughout America, the rate of immunization is well over 80 percent. Furthermore, the Chicago Tribune reports that 98 percent of Illinois students are properly immunized. Additionally, the science of the question is rather black and white. Whether it is the CDC, the WHO, or any other major health organization, nearly all reputable sources testify to the benefits of immunizations.  According to the Pediatric Academic Society, childhood vaccinations in the US prevent about 10.5 million cases of infectious illness and 33,000 deaths per year. There is, however, a significant amount of pseudoscience on the subject. From the false vaccine-autism link to allegations of vaccines causing multiple sclerosis or sudden infant death syndrome, vaccines have been incorrectly related to numerous ailments. But the question is not whether or not vaccines are good for children; it is whether or not they should be required. To some, the answer is an obvious yes. Immunizations are proven to prevent diseases and corresponding sickness. Requiring vaccines, to them, is a morally correct action by the school to ensure the health and safety of all individuals in the community. More importantly, requiring immunizations would help develop “herd immunity” and protect the entire school. Herd immunity is a phenomenon that occurs when a majority of the population is immunized against a disease, preventing its transmission to individuals without immunity. By requiring vaccinations, Latin would be protecting the students and faculty who are unable to be vaccinated themselves. In their eyes, it is simply wrong to risk the health of the public for one’s personal beliefs. While the argument in favor of requiring vaccinations is very strong, the argument against requiring them is equally so. Without question, the main arguing point of whom one could call “pro-choice” (not to be confused with the same label in the abortion debate) individuals is the point of freedom. Who is the school to interfere in the raising of their children? Parents should have the right to decide what is and what is not healthy for their child, not the school. The second argument against requiring vaccinations only builds on the powerful argument of freedom. In today’s world, many people have religious or philosophical beliefs that go against immunizations. As Latin prides itself on being an open, tolerant school, it surely cannot act with such disregard for individual beliefs. These questions of public against private interest are certainly hard questions to ask and even harder to answer. Though it seems they only appear on the coattails of celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, it is my hope they can be carefully thought about by all students, parents, and policy-makers. Regardless of if a consensus is reached, it is beneficial to try.]]>