the right to (not) vaccinate

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet Zack, Guest Writer #6 (of 12). A proud parent, trusted friend, and one always willing to dialogue… even about the uncomfortable…]


On May 3, 2019, Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson introduced HR 2527 “Vaccinate All Children Act of 2019” to the 116th Congress. If passed, this bill would eliminate all non-medical exemptions (philosophical or religious) for immunizations and require all children who attend public schools to receive every vaccination approved by the CDC. Any state that fails to comply would have federal education funding withheld from their budgets. 

Serving as the Congresswoman’s deputy chief of staff and senior health policy advisor until 2015, when Wilson began attempts to legislate vaccine mandates, was a woman named Keenan Austin. Her previous job, prior to her role as a policy spearhead for the Florida legislator, was as a senior pharmaceutical sales representative for GlaxoSmithKline, who as of 2015, was the sixth largest pharmaceutical company in the world.  In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline plead guilty to the largest health care fraud in United States history, that included the “unlawful promotion of certain prescription drugs, its failure to report certain safety data, and its civil liability for alleged false price reporting practices,” resulting in a $3 billion settlement.  International authorities have also discovered that, since 2013, GlaxoSmithKline has spent $4-$5 billion dollars on financial kickbacks, gifts, and prostitutes to provide sexual favors to doctors who would prescribe the company’s drugs to their patients, crimes for which they were fined $489 million in China alone.  As of February 2018, the company had been under further investigations by British and American authorities regarding third party adviser connections with China’s bribery scandals. Forbes has labeled this company, quite astutely, a “leader in pharma fraud.” 

I am not ordinarily a conspiracy theorist, but can you be surprised if I question the motivations of my government officials?

Recently, I saw a picture of a child advertising a shirt that read, “I am vaccinated – because my parents aren’t morons.” Not that I have never been guilty of name-calling, but it might not get you very far in persuading an anti-vaxxer of the reasons to vaccinate. But, despite the news and social media’s claims that the anti-vaccination movement is misled and ignorant , research done by the Institute for Vaccine Safety demonstrates that anti-vaxxers are, in fact, often well-educated and simply more informed on alternative means of medicine (though such means are not universally approved by most American medical associations).    

The United States government classifies vaccines as “unavoidably unsafe,” a term which essentially means that a product cannot be made completely safe for its intended purpose. This is common in the prescription drug market as evidenced by lengthy commercials that advertise for medications that will change one’s life for the better but could have an unlimited number of side effects on one’s body, up to, and including, death. Examining risk vs. utility is standard for government approval of any product and in the case of vaccines, the benefits outweigh the dangers.

Are vaccines going to hurt more people than they help? No. Can they hurt somebody? Yes. As with any medication, everyone’s body reacts differently, and the responses can vary. Vaccines are not 100% safe.

Under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund has paid out $121 million per year in awards over the last three decades to American families that have suffered from sickness, injury, and death resulting from vaccines. A meaningful admission that vaccines can produce adverse effects on the human body, this legislation was created specifically to protect vaccine manufacturers from litigation by people who have suffered from these induced injuries. Likewise, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which is operated by the CDC and the FDA, was originally developed to determine safety issues with U.S. linked vaccines and receives systematic reports regarding their harmful effects.  Stories about children who suffer life changing effects upon receiving vaccinations at the recommendation of a regulatory authority are not difficult to locate. Additionally, multiple studies, including one conducted by the Institute of Medicine, sanctioned by the United States Department of Health and Human services, and research demonstrated by the Journal of Developing Drugs, have also concluded that many of the ingredients in vaccines, either animal based (chicken, soy, etc) or adjuvants (aluminum, cytokine proteins, etc) undeniably contribute to the development of food allergies in those that receive them. In the United States, food allergies have increased by 50% in the last twenty years — as have the number of recommended vaccines. In 1983, the CDC recommended 23 doses of 7 different vaccines be given to children from age two months to six years. Today, the recommendation is 50 doses of 14 different vaccines.  

Those who do not vaccinate are not stupid. They are cautious about questionable products.  

And so, the foundational question about vaccines in American society is not about their effectiveness. It is this: who has the right to make the final decision of risk vs. utility in one’s life?  And in this case – one’s children.

I will not make the decision to vaccinate based on the advice of my government, who will assume parental responsibilities for my children over my literal dead body. Go read about the parents who lost custody of their child in Florida, in May, because they desired to pursue alternative treatments to chemotherapy for their three-year-old’s leukemia. I will not make the decision based on the opinions of other parents, who feel it is my responsibility to protect their child. If I want the polio vaccine for myself, or my child, because I believe that the utility outweighs the risk, then I will consent to the vaccine. If I believe that the risks of the chickenpox vaccine outweigh the utility, then I will not get the vaccine for myself or my child. My decisions regarding mine or my child’s health is not up to you or government. And simply because I choose not to does not make me ill-informed or uneducated.

All Americans consider their civil rights as precious. Just ask an abortion activist about the importance of personal autonomy over one’s body. The day that we allow the United States government to legally mandate what we put into our bodies, well… I hope I’m gone.