Vaccinations are an Intelligent Choice, Forced Vaccinations are an Intolerable Tyranny

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 6:53 AM

By Mario J. Lomuscio

Which best describes you? A science denying “anti-vaxxer”, or an uninformed pro-vax shill of “big-pharma”? Regarding the vaccination debate, there is no shortage of ad hominem arguments or false dichotomies such as these. This contentious debate typically comes down to whether or not the choice to vaccinate one’s self or one’s children is ultimately harmful or beneficial. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, that is typically the question. 

Now, the emergence of a global pandemic has brought forth a new and more frightening question. Does the government have the power to make vaccinations compulsory, regardless of one’s personal beliefs? You might be surprised to learn that yes, the government does have that power, it’s done it before, and the practice has been upheld by the Supreme Court (see Jacobson Vs Massachusetts 1905). I’m in no way against vaccinations, but compulsory vaccinations administered at the behest of government officials wielding special emergency powers, poses an eminent and serious threat to individual liberty. Many view this threat as a necessary evil in the name “public safety”. I view it as an intolerable one. 

Just to be perfectly clear and transparent, I think there is a veritable library of scientific research and study confirming the benefits, safety, and efficacy of vaccines. In my opinion this research is beyond compelling, however I’m not writing here to make that argument. I’m writing to clarify the proper role of government in matters of public safety. So let’s set the record straight: 

The Founding Fathers would have never supported compulsory vaccinations.

Compulsory vaccinations completely violate the spirit of the constitution. The government has a constitutional obligation to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity”. When James Madison wrote those words, I doubt he envisioned a government compelling the American people to be injected with a foreign substance against their will under penalty of law. Thomas Jefferson for his part was a well documented advocate for smallpox inoculation. He even privately funded a campaign against smallpox to help those in need. But Jefferson was more fiercely an advocate of individual liberty. He wrote in a letter to Archibald Stuart 1791: “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.”  It’s safe to assume that Jefferson would likely encourage vaccination were he alive today, but the prospect that he would support compulsory vaccinations mandated by the government is dubious at best. Finally, we mustn’t leave out Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little bit of safety deserve neither liberty or safety."

Compulsory vaccinations would likely have minimal impact.

As noted earlier, there is a wide body of scientific research that offers very compelling evidence for the benefits, safety, and efficacy of vaccines. As such the vast majority Americans believe in vaccination. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 84% of Americans believe vaccinations are either “very important” or “extremely important”. Since Covid19, one of the buzz terms being thrown around is so-called “herd immunity”. It’s estimated that for most diseases, herd immunity occurs when between 80% and 90% of the population has sufficiently achieved immunity. Thus, it is highly likely that enough people (or very close to) will voluntarily accept vaccination without government compulsion and the usurpation of individual liberty. This brings into question the need for compulsory vaccinations. 

I’m not arguing that the government has no  proper role in the mitigation of a public safety crisis. It most certainly does. I'm arguing that as far as our founding fathers were concerned with the matter, the inalienable rights of the individual were of paramount importance. Such rights can only be limited when there is no other viable alternative and may only be limited to the least extent possible and with minimum necessary force. I’m arguing that our founding fathers were ardent champions of Individual liberty and freedom and would not have suffered such restrictions lightly.  

The comparatively small faction of so-called anti vaxxers must be afforded the liberty to act in accordance with their own conscience, despite my disagreement with their beliefs. To deprive them of that liberty is a cure to shame the disease. James Madison wrote it best in Federalist No.10: “it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.”  

In matters of health and public safety, we should always err on the side of Liberty. We should encourage our neighbors to be well informed and to follow the science. We should be empathetic and compassionate when they disagree with us. Most importantly we should absolutely protect essential liberty despite any disagreements. I’ll end with the stirring words of Patrick Henry: “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”