Vaccinations are a social contract

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
It is as stark a time as ever to contemplate that our society, as it is, is neither perfect nor perfectly safe.

Yet, as jarring as it is, if we look at New Zealand from afar both in terms of time and space, in truth we do well.

More than ever before we are, mostly, well ordered, respectful, safe, healthy, warm and nourished and benefiting constantly from not only the safety we find in numbers, but also the progress such a large and collaborative living situation brings us.

So many of the gains made to get us to this point have come about through the rise of civilisation. Undoubtedly, many things we despise about our current state of affairs can be laid at the door of civilisation, too. But for most of us, most of the time, civilisation has brought huge success.

That success, though, comes with the need for compromise, sacrifice and the expectation individuals will act for the good of the community, as well as themselves.

Vaccinations are a part of that social contract and, over the past month, the consequence which follows that contract being unfulfilled have been borne out.

To date, 34 cases of measles have been reported in the South Island since February 22. Measles is an aggressively contagious, deadly disease and has spread quickly through Christchurch and, now, further south to Dunedin. It is a disease that can kill, even if one has access to the best medical care.

It can cause lifelong complications.

And a vaccine exists which all but eliminates it.

Measles, for many of us, was a disease people used to get a long time ago. It was a disease which existed as pictures in school health books or doctors' surgeries, of children with red rashes and not much else. It was a relic of the past and, even then, did not look too sinister.

Of course, it is. In certain environments it can kill almost one in three people infected, and infection rates can hit 90%. Even in First World countries it can kill more than one in every 1000 cases.

The vaccine is free in New Zealand, and has been for decades. While it carries a risk of complications, the risk is minuscule. So why do some parents refuse to have their children vaccinated? That is a question only they can answer, although it should be pointed out anti-vaccination parents love their children just as much as the rest of us.

What they seem to misunderstand, though, is the social contract a civilisation like ours comes with. To achieve the benefits, compromises and sacrifices must be made. By not vaccinating children, a disease as contagious and deadly as measles can take root.

Those who suffer from reduced immunity, the already sick, the very young, pregnant women and more are at heightened risk of measles once it gets a foothold in a community. Those people can do little to protect themselves.

It is our contract with each other that we do all we can to, if not improve this society we so luckily find ourselves born into, then at least to not make it worse for others. Yes, immunisation carries risk. Yes, it is painful for the child. Yes, there are myriad false stories based on a long-debunked piece of junk-science connecting the measles vaccine to autism.

None of these things should be ignored. Being a parent is hard, stressful and full of tough decisions and uncertainty. But enjoying the benefits of a society without undertaking the sacrifices which make those benefits possible, is unfair. It is unkind, it is ill-informed, and it is dangerous.

There are many things which should not be legislated on but, because of the stubbornness of many of us, have had to become law. Perhaps it is time vaccinations joined that list.



If mandating vaccines was actually about health or as it's put in this article, a social contract, then why not mandate healthy eating? Why not mandate exercise? It's because it's not about health. It's about money, power and control by way of forced medical intervention with a dangerous product that has no liability. Ethical responsibility is not forcing someone with a medical intervention which could cause harm, ethical responsibility is not forcing someone to be collateral damage and ethical responsibility is not forcing someone to take a chance and hope something does not happen to them. You are expecting people to do this and then make them feel guilty if they don't. This does not and will not sit well with people who are informed beyond your 'ill-informed' information.

Getting sick is not about high sounding ethics. It is about public health and infection.

The anti vax brigade are fine if their children are home schooled.