The latest litmus test for politicians seems to be the idea of mandatory versus voluntary vaccinations. Even libertarians are somewhat divided on this, but the liberty-minded factions seem to support pro-choice, and the statist-leaning folks are going towards making them mandatory.
First, let’s point out that most people agree that vaccinations are one of mankind’s greatest medical achievements. Whether you’re pro-choice or not, I think we all agree that science has proven them to be overwhelmingly effective.
Rand Paul recently weighed in that he supported a pro-choice position, but he got himself into trouble when he stated, “I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.”
If I were to give Rand Paul the benefit of the doubt here, I would like to believe he was simply arguing that some people are afraid of vaccines because children have been diagnosed with mental disorders after being vaccinated, as a means to explain why people might not want to vaccinate, even if this is anecdotal evidence, which is definitively not scientific.
I would like to think he was not arguing that there was any causality, since studies have almost universally debunked this myth. But if he was, that is sadly a very unscientific position for someone who is currently practicing medicine to posit.
While it has been reported that some vaccines may cause temporary issues, I don’t think any credible studies have supported the notion that any permanent complications have arisen.
But either way, let’s explore what actually happens when you’re given a vaccine. A vaccine is essentially a dead, or severely weakened version of a real virus.
To over-simplify things a bit, living things introduced into your body that don’t have your DNA will be seen by your immune system as a threat, and your immune system will go about trying to destroy it.
On a side note, as fantastic as this may sound, I don’t think I’m overstating this one iota when I say that this particular field of research will revolutionize the world of medicine forever; we are truly on the cusp of never needing organ donors again.
Think of the vaccine as a new first-person war-simulating video game you just bought. At first, you don’t know any of the levels, how to defeat any of the enemies, etc. So you play the game on its easiest mode until you learn the most effective means to slay your enemies. Once you’ve mastered it, you are ready for the more advanced levels.
This is what vaccines are effectively doing. Because the vaccine is a dead or weak form of the virus, it’s like the game on “easy” mode where it’s of little to no threat to you. In this state, your body can train itself to kill the virus so it’s better prepared to kill the full strength version down the road, if it’s introduced into your system.
So why does it not work sometimes? Well, what if the copy of the video game you received was Halo, but the real disease is Call of Duty? You’ve prepared for the wrong game. There isn’t just one influenza virus, there are various strains. So it’s important that the medical field do their research well and introduce a vaccine that prepares you for the influenza strain that is expected to be most prevalent.
Now, let’s also explore the effects on your body when you get a vaccine. Your immune system is not magic, it uses energy from what you consume—energy you would otherwise use to run, jump, and play.
So it’s not uncommon for some short-term effects as your body diverts its resources to the battle you’ve just entered it into with the vaccine. When you get sick, you get weak also, right? It’s because your body is diverting energy to fight the virus you have. Whether it’s a vaccine or a live virus, your immune system has a lot of work to do, and you will be affected in that moment.
Since every person is different, people’s reactions will vary. Some people might get the vaccine and feel almost nothing, others may get the vaccine and feel like their energy level has been reduced by half. It’s for this reason that Rand Paul suggested staggering these immunizations so that your body can tackle one virus at a time to keep the short-term weakening effects to a minimum. Plus, if your immune system is busy fighting one battle, it may not be well-suited to fight another, which should make basic sense.
Now that we’ve covered the facts, let’s get towards the opinion of whether it should be optional or mandatory.
Vaccines are rather effective, but they’re not bulletproof. Depending on the vaccine, you will see here that the CDC has found the effectiveness to vary anywhere from as low as 59% and as high as 92%. This is the single most important factor I used in forming my opinion.
Some people online have posted memes asking the question, “If vaccines work, and you’ve had one, why are you concerned if I get one?”
On the face of it, it seems like a fair question, but it’s one born out of ignorance. As I stated above, at best, they seem about 90% effective. So imagine a scenario that I am interacting with you, and you have the virus in question. If you haven’t been vaccinated, there’s a 1:10 chance I may get the disease from you. But if you’ve also been vaccinated, that means my risk now goes from 1:10 to 1:100 (1/10 x 1/10 = 1/100). The more people who get vaccinated, the more the odds go down.
If enough get vaccinated, the odds will eventually exceed the number of people in an area, and the disease will likely be eradicated. Meaning that if the odds of you catching it get to 1:1,000, but there’s only 900 people in your community, the odds would then favor eradication of the disease—basic math.
Assuming you’re not an anarchist, almost all of us believe government’s duties are to protect our rights. Statists think government has many more duties, but I don’t know of any non-anarchists championing government causes that don’t include protecting rights first. The most important of these rights? The right to life.
So if vaccines are anything less than 100% effective, which they are, government enforcing you to get one isn’t for your benefit, it’s to protect others from you if you catch the virus.
What so often happens is people want to create a paradox to sound smart, something no one should ever intelligently do. For instance, it’s like asking a Christian if God can build a wall so high even he can’t climb it—a purely nonsensical question.
Arguing that vaccines should be a choice creates a similar liberty-paradox. Because while you’re giving liberty to one person, you’re effectively taking it away from everyone else they’ll come in contact with, which mathematically, is a net loss for liberty.
It would be no different from arguing that slavery should be legal because it gives liberty to the slave owner, or as Greg Gutfeld pointed out (I don’t want to take credit for his argument), it would be like legalizing drinking and driving because you’re restoring liberty to the future AA member.
The only way you are truly for liberty is if you champion the view that gives the greatest amount of liberty. Giving one person liberty while denying the rights of ten others, is not a libertarian position, it’s a selfish one, in my opinion.
Now, you can rightfully argue I’ve created my own liberty-paradox by denying the right of the anti-vaccine person, but I have an answer for that. If they choose to self quarantine in some way, then by all means, let them not vaccinate. I’m perfectly OK with that—problem solved, paradox gone.
Otherwise, I think the only fair libertarian position is that you cannot own a slave, you cannot drink and drive, you cannot drive a car without insurance to cover me if you hit me, and as much as I hate government mandates, I feel you should not be allowed to introduce yourself or your children into the public arena unless you vaccinate.