The measles outbreak here has really made me think about vaccination, politics, and public health. The Tyee has published my article When Your Neighbours May Be Hazardous to Your Health. The conclusion:
In the U.S., as in much of Canada, misplaced trust in a supposed association of vaccination and autism has created a huge pool of unvaccinated children. The association has been repudiated, but the damage continues.
Here in B.C., vaccination has been a long-lasting labour-relations issue with the Health Employees' Union and the B.C. Nurses' Union. Neither anti-vaccination health workers nor the Dutch Reformed parents of the Fraser Valley are ignorant people, and they have every right to question medical practices that don't seem right to them.
But the rest of us have an equal right to protect ourselves, whether against foreign visitors bringing measles or Taliban gunmen who think polio drops are a plot to sterilize Muslims. As more diseases start travelling, we may need to reconsider what we require of visitors and immigrants. Pakistanis visiting India must already show proof of polio vaccination (India just became officially polio-free). We may have to demand that anyone -- Dutch or Canadian -- travelling to or from the Netherlands will need to show proof of vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella (and polio).
Saying that a kid dying of measles is "God's will" is not enough. Invoking the evil Big Pharma companies as vaccine profiteers is mere paranoia. Many of us are alive today only because we and our parents and grandparents were vaccinated and taught basic sanitation and hygiene. Even the unvaccinated rely on the herd immunity conferred by the rest of us.
Turning away from the practices that permitted us to live may not be ignorant. But it is profoundly, recklessly negligent.