The Herd of Rhode Islanders Can Afford to Allow Some Freedom

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Some families don’t believe that the fact that their children go to school with other children gives the government the right to force them to take drugs related to sexually transmitted diseases.  Many become more suspicious when they hear of terrible side effects that some appear to experience and observe the overlapping financial interests of state government and company behind the drug.

Mind you:  If the government simply recommended the drug, there would be no problem.  But as it is, dedicated families feel the need to become activists and testify in pursuit of legislation to return their freedom.  On the other end are bureaucrats whose social concern is difficult to entangle from the pursuit of metrics:

Among her arguments against the “personal belief” exemption that some lawmakers are seeking: “The proposed legislation, if enacted, will potentially decrease our state’s vaccination coverage rates, putting people at risk … [especially] those who cannot be vaccinated″ for medical reasons. …

In one letter to the lawmakers, [Director of Health Nicole] Alexander-Scott wrote: “Most vaccine-preventable diseases are transmitted from person to person. When a sufficiently large proportion of individuals in a community are immunized, those persons serve as a protective barrier against transmission of the disease in the community thus indirectly protecting those who are not immunized … This phenomenon is referred to as ‘herd immunity.’”

Good of the government to have such concern about the “herd.”  One doubts that Alexander-Scott highlighted the fact that Rhode Island’s HPV vaccination rate was already high, and that the mandate increased it almost not at all.

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That is, acting of their own free will — not as herded cattle — Rhode Islanders were already doing what the government wanted.  Knowing that, one can reasonably infer that making us do things is the point, establishing the principle that we have to go where they think we should.



  • Karl Rand

    Your celebration of ignorance and anti-science is great as long as it doesn’t have a detrimental impact on me or my family. We have a right to protect and defend ourselves, especially our “freedom and prosperity”.

    • Justin Katz

      I’m curious (and promise that I’m not looking to derail into a separate topic): What’s your position on abortion?

      • Karl Rand

        I do not believe it should be criminalized.

        • Justin Katz

          What is your reasoning for believing abortion should not be criminalized?

          • Karl Rand

            Our freedoms should extend to pretty much anything we choose to do to our own bodies.

            Restricting freedom in this case appears to conflict with your fierce opposition to government regulation in almost every other aspect of your philosophy.

          • Justin Katz

            So how does your principle about freedom relate to the insinuations above, with other people’s freedom being “great as long as it doesn’t have a detrimental impact on me or my family”?

          • Karl Rand

            I’m not suggesting they go to jail for their actions or advocating they lose their “freedom” in any way.

          • Justin Katz

            So you think there should not be an HPV mandate?

          • Karl Rand

            I don’t think there should be an HPV mandate because it’s not a contagion like most of the other required vaccinations (science), not for political reasons. I think you and your organization would be better served using that approach to opposing the mandate.

            By the way, that last analogy about the “the mandate increased it almost not at all” is horrible. Using the same logic we should not require polio vaccinations.

          • Justin Katz

            OK, then it looks like the point I need to make is that not every post is meant to be a symposium; I shoot for fewer than 350 words, blockquotes included. I’ve written before that HPV is different because it’s not communicable through the ordinary activities of school. That’s why I emphasized that this is a sexually transmitted disease.

            That relates to the relevance of the lack of an increase. Basically, your first paragraph implies a principle of least intrusion in government impositions. If people are already utilizing a vaccine because they’re persuaded by the science, then government doesn’t have to mandate it. And when government does mandate it, the precedent is established that it has the power to impose such mandates even when there’s no obvious reason, either when it comes to increasing utilization or because a government activity (public school) creates a need.

            On abortion, I promised I wasn’t attempting to slide into that conversation, which was almost as much a promise to myself as to you. However two quick points: 1) Abortion has the added consideration that the woman’s decision affects another person’s body, as well as her own, and 2) I don’t support imprisoning women who have or seek to have abortions.

          • Karl Rand

            I don’t think we are too far apart on this one. Good discussion. I would also maintain vaccination(s) “has the added consideration that the..decision affects another person’s body” when parents are making the decisions on behalf of their children.

          • Justin Katz

            Fair point, reflecting in related ways on the two sides of our conversation:

            On the vaccine side, that makes the question one of who has the authority: the parents or the government. I’d argue that the answer should only be government in clear and extreme instances. I’d further argue that the decision of a mother to kill her child will almost always be one such instance.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            I do consider HPV to be a public health menace, having known two women afflicted with cervical cancer. I also find it troubling that it is transmissible by men, almost without symptoms. Feminists have argued that it received little attention because it only effected women, “cervical cancer” That is not an argument I want to address here. However, Michael Douglas has brought to public attention that it can result in cancer of the throat for men via cunnilingus.

            The fact that HPV is detectable through a “Pap test”, seems of small moment. Consider how detected HIV continued to spread.

          • CG

            One of the scientists who developed this vaccine is on record saying that its use will not in fact lower cervical cancer rates anymore than screening through pap smears already does.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            Have I completely missed the mark? Are you saying the HPV vaccine lacks efficacy?

            I know the last woman to develop polio in Massachusetts. She seems to have been successful, but I have wondered if she doesn’t feel like the last soldier to die in a victorious war.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            “Our freedoms should extend to pretty much anything we choose to do to our own bodies.”

            More “question” than argument; why doesn’t this extend to drugs? Why is their use illegal? The same might be asked about suicide, and assisted suicide. Although I suspect a religious origin, “God gave us our lives”. The argument seems to be that the motivating factor might be depression, with the suicide operating under a defeat of reason. That same reasoning might be applied to the decision to abort.

      • Karl Rand

        You raise an interesting analogy. In one case you support an individuals right to not do something to their body, but in another you want to prohibit an individuals right to do something to their body. How that position be construed as “freedom”?

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