The recent measles outbreak in Disneyland and other areas has some heads spinning, and rightfully so. In the face of such rapid spreading, the debate over the necessity of vaccinations has reemerged and caused a heated stir of emotions from those on both sides of the issue. Government’s role in public health is being debated, as some call for mandatory vaccines against certain diseases while others claim their freedom to do what they deem best for themselves. Does a far-off bureaucratic institution have any legitimate claim to control over your personal health decisions? No, it does not; however, there is a bridge that must be crossed between personal freedom and common sense, something too many are willing to overlook.
Personal liberty is indeed a fundamental right given by God and documented in our founding as a nation. Procured by that liberty is the ability to live your life mostly free of government interference; most of government’s legitimate authority can only give suggestions, not mandate a certain activity. It is correct and necessary to barricade government’s access into such personal matters. Failure to do so could result in a massive breach of privacy. Some are calling for a federal mandate to require all children to be vaccinated according to government standards. Not only is this unnecessary, but it is also venturing out onto extremely dangerous ground. What if, in the future, a new drug was released that failed to earn public confidence but was determined by government to be vital to public health? Forced injections are only one of the potential side effects of a policy that allows government the power to mandate health decisions. It is absolutely essential that we safeguard against this encroachment.
However, the other extreme of this is potentially just as dangerous. A mindset that allows all liberties one could possibly fancy and disregards the good of the community is one that will eventually threaten the entire community as a whole. While government has no place in your personal decisions, common sense does. Opposition to vaccines simply for the sake of being opposed to a uniform “norm” does not quantify a logical resistance. This ideal existed long before our debate over mandated vaccines and was even addressed by Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Along with the liberty we have comes with a responsibility to incline ourselves to common sense. No government mandate should be necessary for folks to realize the value and importance of guarding against potentially fatal diseases. We shouldn’t have to resort to throwing parents in jail for failing to vaccinate their children. Being vaccinated does not mean that you conformed to an evil social norm that equates you with the status quo; rather, it means that you take the public good into consideration and regard the well-being of your fellow human beings as highly as your own.
When did we as a society lose community? While individualism does and always will remain a crucial building block to our country, for its sake we have unknowingly abandoned the sense of unity that should bind us together. As we often hear, America is a nation of immigrants– there is no true American “look” or “style.” We are made up of people from all over the world and every way of life; that diversity is what makes us unique. However, every society needs a glue to hold it together, and since ours as a whole can never be one of ethnic or religious unity, it is our shared American identity– whatever that may look like– that holds us together. One aspect of that identity is concern for your fellow man. No, the government should not force you to vaccinate your children; but if your unvaccinated child enters a classroom and unknowingly infects an at-risk child, the line of personal responsibility has been irrevocably breached. That’s a risk we should not be willing to take. The freedom to support or oppose vaccinations does not open the door to freedom from common sense. Your personal health choices are yours alone until they begin to affect the air that everyone else breathes as well. Government should not have to mandate vaccinations– human decency and common sense should win the day and allow a prudent, intelligent society that doesn’t fear unnecessary illnesses. Vaccinations are simple precautions against potentially fatal diseases and should be taken advantage of, not scorned as something worse than the diseases themselves.