One of the earliest memories I have from my childhood is of dragging myself out of bed and along the floor of the passage to listen outside of the front room door while Granma talked to the doctor who had just treated me. I would have been younger than ten I think and had been very sick with a mysterious malady that left me unable to walk, hence the dragging myself along the floor. It was also dark as night in the passage, and interesting that the doctor had made a house call at that time. I don’t remember the details of the conversation apart from the word “poliomyelitis” and the distress that caused Granma at the sound of the word. However it obviously wasn’t the dreaded polio that was sweeping the world at that time because the treatment I received from the good doctor meant that I recovered and regained the use of my legs without any hospitalisation. It follows then that I had a personal interest in the announcement shortly thereafter of the amazing discovery of a vaccine for poliomyelitis by Dr Jonas Salk and his name and the timing has left an impression with me ever since.
The success of the Salk vaccination program has become the preferred rebuttal of arguments against vaccination programs. However while this particular vaccine may well have been solely responsible for the control of the poliomyelitis epidemic there are other factors which may well have contributed to the success, such as the recognition of the dangers and subsequent reduction in the usage of DDT and other chemicals which occurred at the same time. It is also likely that the infinite possibilities of the human body started to develop an immunity to it as well. But human nature being what it is we always favour a single, simple explanation for anything rather than deal with the infinite complexities of nature and our part in it. So the pharmaceutical companies have reinforced at any opportunity the sole efficacy of chemical vaccines to the exclusion of any other immunisation treatments and of course, the herd immunity theory.
The herd immunity theory is another example of the human preference for single, simple explanations wedded to the arrogance of the same humans that they can control anything in nature. Diseases arise from natural circumstances and to my mind we can never guarantee complete elimination of diseases but rather only limit the effect and prevalence of them while we develop natural immunity if possible. The only control we can seem to effect in nature sadly is the total extermination of whole species of animals, birds, bees and other insects which require multiples to breed and continue the species. Diseases as I understand it can lie dormant for centuries in their natural environment and continue their survival without reliance on the gross mechanical method of breeding.
That is not to say that vaccinations are not effective. They can be in immunising many people from contracting the disease or illness they are designed to guard against. But again, a vaccine is a single solution not able to be designed to work with everybody. No two humans are completely alike it seems; the trillions of cells that make up a human body mean that it is practically impossible to get an exact match in another body. Vaccine testing can not cover all the types of humans available and the pharmaceutical companies recognise that by asking for, and gaining, immunity from prosecution for any damages or harm caused by the use of a vaccine. It is unlikely any vaccine can be shown to be 100% safe and any safety percentages quoted can be viewed with a degree of scepticism. Every vaccine has the potential to harm someone and the degree of harm can of course vary from person to person.
The population at large believe in the effectiveness of a vaccination program without considering the issues I have discussed above. They are fearful that if everyone is not vaccinated then they are at risk of contracting whatever disease the vaccine is designed to guard against. It is this fear that generates the hysteria about people who object to any particular vaccine. I find it an illogical fear because if you believe in the efficacy of the vaccine and get vaccinated then presumably you are guarded against catching the disease. So why would you be afraid of other people who don’t get vaccinated? The fear then comes down to the mistaken belief that the disease can only be eliminated if every human in the world gets vaccinated against it, the herd immunity theory, a practical impossibility at best.
Consider this. If a person has a firm belief or even a suspicion that the vaccine may harm them, then by insisting that they do get vaccinated for the so-called “general good”, you are in reality asking the objector to make a conscious sacrifice, potentially of their life, by getting vaccinated. A person’s health decision must be a basic human right, the most fundamental of all, and no-one should ever consider abrogating that. Mandatory vaccination is a direct violation of that right. There is no fairness in arbitrarily asking anyone to potentially sacrifice their life for the supposed “general good”. Not in our supposedly “civilised” society.