If You Don’t Get It, You Get It (and vice versa)

It is an article of faith among intelligent people that the best evidence ought to be used in making medical decisions, with individuals having the final say about their preference.

But other articles of faith get in the way. Polio is spreading through Africa because some Muslims believe vaccination is a Western, or satanic, plot against them. They threaten the rest of the world by dint of their primitive beliefs. In the Western world, a new vaccine has been found to prevent 70 percent of cervical cancer, but to be most effective it has to be given to 11-year-old girls.

In which of these cases should the power of government be brought to bear on holdouts? Some parents argue that while the anti-cancer vaccine may be a good thing for their own daughters, government should leave people’s bodies alone. That has a strong “pro-choice” ring to it, doesn’t it? But if it’s polio we’re talking about, that’s another thing; make those uneducated Africans get vaccinated, even if they will kill you for trying.

In either case, it should be understood that when it comes to effective vaccinations for communicable disease, if you don’t get one you get the other.

2 COMMENTS

  1. It was more of an observation, albeit a tricky one, about hypocrisy.

    People who read this blog assume that public health demands childhood vaccinations against deadly and contagious diseses. This is especially true in the Third World, where opposition is based on irrational belief.

    But if it comes to a disease caused by their daughters having sex, all of a sudden a lot of otherwise rational Western-thinking people believe government should not step in.

    In other words, while polio is putatively more dangerous than STDs, the solutions too often have to do more with how you get the disease than the disease itself.

    Ira R. Allen

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