It’s pretty clear that vaccination views don’t break down on partisan lines. Elizabeth Stoker Breunig is no doubt right that good old American individualism motivates many people’s refusal to take major risks to other people as seriously as minor risks to themselves. But not all of them. (It’s hard to generalize about anti-vaxxers.) And individualism itself of course exists across much of the political spectrum. Nor is support for specifically mandatory vaccines found mostly just among us liberals, with our comparative comfort with statism. And some of the best things I’ve read on this have been by right-leaning commentators.
Medicine always involves trade-offs. With vaccines, we’re not just weighing them for ourselves.
Our normally fractious media and political world has reached an item of consensus: vaccines against deadly diseases are good, and kids should get them. As the Disneyland measles outbreak has brought new attention to the issue of vaccine refusal, prominent politicians have been asked to state their views for the record. Most have obliged with unambiguous statements that vaccines—including the MMR shot, which was linked by a totally discredited study to the incidence of autism—are safe and should be universal. One outlier was Rand Paul, the libertarian senator from Kentucky, who has a tendency to shoot from the hip in just such situations.
This past summer, a judge in New York City ruled against three families who filed suit against the public school system, claiming their right to free exercise of religion was violated when their unvaccinated children were barred from school. In another case last year, a measles outbreak sickened unvaccinated members of a large church in Texas, drawing claims the church had discouraged vaccinations. The church later hosted vaccination clinics, and a spokesman denied the church had ever advised against vaccines. These public episodes seemingly pit immunization against faith. Yet Christians have a long history of promoting vaccines.