Sunday, April 22, 2012
The Tragedy Of Philosophical Exemptions
[A] community free of an infectious disease because of a high vaccination rate can be viewed as a common. As in Hardin’s common, the very existence of this common leads to tension between the best interests of the individual and those of the community. Increased immunization rates result in signiﬁcantly decreased risk for disease. Although no remaining unimmunized individual can be said to be free of risk from the infectious disease, the herd effect generated from high immunization rates signiﬁcantly reduces the risk for disease for those individuals. Additional beneﬁt is conferred on the unimmunized person because avoidance of the vaccine avoids the risk for any adverse reactions associated with the vaccine.
As disease rates drop, the risks associated with the vaccine come even more to the fore, providing further incentive to avoid immunization. Thus, when an individual in this common chooses to go unimmunized, it only minimally increases the risk of illness for that individual, while conferring on that person the beneﬁt of avoiding the risk of vaccine induced side effects. At the same time, however, this action weakens the herd effect protection for the entire community. As more and more individuals choose to do what is in their “best” individual interest, the common eventually fails as herd immunity disappears and disease outbreaks occur. To avoid this “tragedy of the commons,” legal requirements have been imposed by communities (in recent times, by states) to mandate particular vaccinations.
The defendant insists that his liberty is invaded when the state subjects him to fine or imprisonment for neglecting or refusing to submit to vaccination; that a compulsory vaccination law is unreasonable, arbitrary, and oppressive, and, therefore, hostile to the inherent right of every freeman to care for his own body and health in such way as to him seems best; and that the execution of such a law against one who objects to vaccination, no matter for what reason, is nothing short of an assault upon his person. But the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good. On any other basis organized society could not exist with safety to its members. Society based on the rule that each one is a law unto himself would soon be confronted with disorder and anarchy. Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others.
We are not prepared to hold that a minority, residing or remaining in any city or town where smallpox is prevalent, and enjoying the general protection afforded by an organized local government, may thus defy the will of its constituted authorities, acting in good faith for all, under the legislative sanction of the state. If such be the privilege of a minority, then a like privilege would belong to each individual of the community, and the spectacle would be presented of the welfare and safety of an entire population being subordinated to the notions of a single individual who chooses to remain a part of that population. We are unwilling to hold it to be an element in the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States that one person, or a minority of persons, residing in any community and enjoying the benefits of its local government, should have the power thus to dominate the majority when supported in their action by the authority of the state...and we do not perceive that this legislation has invaded any right secured by the Federal Constitution.
City ordinances making vaccination a condition to attendance at public or private schools...are consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment, and, in view of prior decisions, a contrary contention presents no substantial constitutional question.
Long before this suit was instituted, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U. S. 11, had settled that it is within the police power of a state to provide for compulsory vaccination.
[T]he family itself is not beyond regulation in the public interest, as against a claim of religious liberty...Acting to guard the general interest in youth's wellbeing, the state, as parens patriae, may restrict the parent's control by requiring school attendance, [n9] regulating or prohibiting the child's labor [n10] and in many other ways. [n11] Its authority is not nullified merely because the parent grounds his claim to control the child's course of conduct on religion or conscience. Thus, he cannot claim freedom from compulsory vaccination for the child more than for himself on religious grounds. [n12] The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child [p167] to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death. People v. Pierson, 176 N.Y. 201, 68 N.E. 243. [n13] The catalogue need not be lengthened. It is sufficient to show what indeed appellant hardly disputes, that the state has a wide range of power for limiting parental freedom and authority in things affecting the child's welfare, and that this includes, to some extent, matters of conscience and religious conviction.
We believe that [the removal of a philosophical exemption to mandated vaccination in] S.199 is constitutional.
You have every right to play Russian roulette with your family in your own home; don't expect me to buy into a civil rights argument when you start firing into a crowd.
PS--Ridiculous amount of emphasis is quite possibly mine.
April 22, 2012 | Permalink
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