Op-ed by Michael Vaughn –
Over the last several weeks there has been a lot of discussion around the measles and whether or not folks should be getting vaccinated or not. At the center of this issue is a religious objection to getting these vaccines or parents not wanting to subject their children to these vaccinations. However, with the outbreak that has occurred, some in government are doing what government does; think for the people and force them into a decision.
In one locality, I believe it is New York City the mayor has stated that if people do not get the vaccination then they will be fined $25,000. This is ridiculous and is a very slippery slope. The government should not force parents or individuals to get a vaccine. Now here is where the balance comes in. The government has a responsibility to protect the public and that may mean that they will have do things that will cause some in the public additional sacrifice. This is the case here but government needs to ensure that they recognize the rights of parents to do what they believe best for their children or what is required by a religious belief.
There has been, what I could call, mis-information regarding vaccinations and that has caused some people to decide that they do not want their children to be vaccinated. However, there are some that object to the vaccination on religious grounds. The position that I believe the government should take is that people without the vaccine are not allowed in certain public places. However, they should not force people to be vaccinated. This is a win-win, relative to the current technology and understanding that we have. When someone choses to opt out of a “program” that can be stated to be good for public health (each case will have to be evaluated as I’m sure there are some that could take this to very bad places), they will have to bear the brunt of the consequences for not aligning.
Measles is something that can do great damage in a society and it needs to be contained and hopefully irradiated. When the consensus of the medical community is that getting a vaccine against measles is lower risk than having a measles outbreak, it is required to act. This action may be to quarantine folks that have the measles or are at risk of getting the measles. This is inconvenient to those that have the disease or are unprotected from getting it, however, it is necessary for the public good. We seem to understand this when it came to the Ebola outbreak and we need to understand it here. However, the government MUST NOT throw away the rights of its citizens to opt out of getting a vaccine.
The slipper slope here is that there could be a number of things, that the government could say that one should get and if we force the population to get these drugs, vaccinations, etc., it would amount to losing a freedom that we should never give up. Again, we may have to suffer the consequences, however, we would retain our right to not allow the government to give us drugs that we do not want to receive. In a democracy, the people have a right to refuse having their rights violated or even removed. While the government exists to protect the people, that protection has to be tempered with ensuring the rights of its citizens.
Instead of forcing people to be subjected to drugs they don’t want because of religious reasons or concern for the side effects, the government could invest more in ensuring that vaccines are as safe as possible as well as educating the population on the side effects of getting vaccinated. For those rejecting on religious grounds, the government (or the religious group) could work to determine what else could be done to “arrest” the disease while not infringing on the religious beliefs of the group. I believe that there is always a way to resolve an issue, the thing is that one has to take the time to seek it out.
In a free society we need to always balance the needs of the many relative to the needs of the few. The majority must not get to override the minority. There are concessions that need to be made in order to ensure that we do not go down the slippery slope and wind up in a place that would erode freedom and cause our democracy to cease to truly exist!
Rev. Michael Vaughn currently serves as senior pastor at New Wineskin Church in Rochester. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.