Tuesday, May 14, 2019

This Troubles Me Philosophically: Measles

5/13/19 USA Today:
The number of measles cases reported nationwide this year jumped by 75 last week, pushing the total to 839 in 23 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
This year's total marks the most U.S. cases since 1994 – and since measles was declared eliminated in the USA in 2000.
The antivaxxer stuff is pure nonsense.  But the only losers are children whose parents refuse to have their kids vaccinated.  As long as the rest of the population is rational, only the children off antivaxxers lose.  Yes, there are some public health costs from this (as can be argued for parents encouraging promiscuity, dangerous sports, and half a dozen other activities). 

There is an argument that the government intervening in parental decisions should be regarded with great suspicion: part of why Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) struck Oregon's ban on Catholic schools:
2. The Oregon Compulsory Education Act (Oreg. Ls., § 5259) which, with certain exemptions, requires every parent, guardian or other person having control of a child between the ages of eight and sixteen years to send him to the public school in the district where he resides, for the period during which the school is held for the current year, is an unreasonable interference with the liberty of the parents and guardians to direct the upbringing of the children, and in that respect violates the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 268 U. S. 534.
Requiring children to be vaccinated certainly is an "interference with the liberty of the parents... to direct the upbringing of their children."  There are also serious freedom of religion arguments when parents have a religious opposition to a practice that they regard as fundamental to their beliefs.  But refusing vaccination is definitely more of hazard to children than refusing to allow them to learn German or not attend high school as was the case in Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972). 

Whatever the philosophical objections that I have to this nanny state imposition, it is really cruel to the children.  I know a home schooling family who are antivaxxers, and all their kids came down with whooping cough.  Please, do not be stupid.


  1. Measles was eradicated from the USA, so all the cases are coming from unvaccinated foreigners.

    A less nanny state alternative would be to require proof of immunization to get a visa, instead of requiring it to attend school.

  2. they have the choice not to vaccinate by not sending children to public schools.
    They importance of Herd Immunity in keeping disease from spreading is a public interest justification for mandatory vaccination. So few people are being vaccinated against the "extinct" Smallpox virus that a release from Bioweapon or research stores could kill millions. Remember all those old movies with wards full of sick children, wooping cough and typhus.

  3. It's also dangerous to others. Vaccination is not 100% effective for life. However, "herd immunity" protects those who are vulnerable in spite of vaccination. I.e. when the disease is extremely rare, there will be fewer exposures of the vulnerable.

  4. Roger: The New York cases involve a child who had been exposed in Israel while on vacation.

    TmacWeave: New York is requiring even of those not in public schools.

  5. <>

    Not true! Anti vaxxers also place at risk children too young or otherwise to vulnerable to receive the vaccine.

  6. People other than the children of anti-vaxxers are at risk. Old folks, babies below vaccination age, people with waning immunity to measles, and people who are immunocompromised, such as organ recipients.

    The authority of the government in public health areas is very strong, and long has been. In this case, these people are creating a potentially lethal health hazard to strangers, which is no different than reckless or drunk driving.