reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey, who contributes to our forum below, has argued forcefully that the popularization of junk anti-vaccine science, and the resulting increase in opt-outs, has led to scores of needless deaths, thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of cases of preventable illnesses.
Yet neither vaccines nor the diseases they combat are 100 percent predictable or controllable.
Aside from the issue of child neglect, there would be no argument against allowing people to refuse government-required vaccination if they and their families were the only ones who suffered the consequences of their foolhardiness. Let's first take a look at how vaccines have improved health, then consider the role of the state in promoting immunization.
Vaccines are among the most effective health care innovations ever devised.
One of the last official acts of the famously paternalistic former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who also made our "45 Enemies of Freedom" list) was to make flu shots mandatory for all children under 5 who are enrolled in city-licensed schools or daycare facilities.
A 2004 study by the Harvard University economist David Cutler and the National Bureau of Economic Research economist Grant Miller estimated that the provision of clean water "was responsible for nearly half of the total mortality reduction in major cities, three-quarters of the infant mortality reduction, and nearly two-thirds of the child mortality reduction." Providing clean water and pasteurized milk resulted in a steep decline in deadly waterborne infectious diseases.And how far can or should the state intrude into family decisions that affect the safety and health of children?The issue seems almost tailor-made to produce philosophical conflict among those who otherwise share a heightened skepticism of government power. Over the last 15 years, spurred on by Mc Carthy and other high-profile advocates who claim that vaccinations may cause such damaging side effects as autism, more parents are opting out of vaccinations for highly contagious diseases for their children.A November 2013 article, drawing on the University of Pittsburgh's Project Tycho database of infectious disease statistics since 1888, concluded that vaccinations since 1924 have prevented 103 million cases of polio, measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis A, diphtheria, and pertussis.They have played a substantial role in greatly reducing death and hospitalization rates, as well as the sheer unpleasantness of being hobbled by disease.Chickenpox used to infect 4 million kids a year, hospitalize 11,000, and kill 105; within a decade of a vaccine being rolled out in the mid-1990s, infections had dropped to 600,000, resulting in 1,276 hospitalizations and 19 deaths.