I am amazed at the things Americans talk about sometimes. The world seems to be spinning out of control, with our planet being threatened by looming ecological disaster and the continuous conflicts of mankind, yet our news is filled with the debate that rages around whether or not children should be vaccinated. Really?
Way back when my son was young, vaccinations were a matter of course. One gave them little thought, like circumsions for male children or the fact that lots of sugar was bad for little ones. Things as simple as washing your hands to prevent the spread of germs, or the concept of penicillin and its benefits, were taken as products of enlightened science. They were signs of the progress civilization had made and they brought a better life to all. People did not seem to agonize over what was considered progress.
Perhaps that statement may seem naive, was it naive to believe that diseases could and should be controlled and that if they were society was better for it? Maybe it was easier to think that because back then we functioned more as a society with common interests than we do now. Life was a group effort which recognized that while we might have differences in customs of viewpoints, we were all in this together and, when it came to things like vaccinations, most of us thought that what protected your kid also protected mine. Making that protection the best it could be was the goal. Indeed no one who was able to give their children Dr. Salk’s vaccination against dread polio wanted to contemplate alternatives. Polio could be eradicated, and that was what mattered.
The current concerns seem to have begun with worry that vaccinations could cause as much damage as cure. It has morphed from scary stories of irreversible harm to young children to an issue of governmental incursion into the sacred rights of the individual. Really?
Shouldn’t an advanced, informed public be talking about how to make vaccinations safer and better rather than throwing away the advancements in medicine that have protected our children so well so far? Since when did it become an all or nothing deal in which we are willing to needlessly expose our next generations to illnesses that can be avoided?
Why is the debate not over how to make vaccinations better and safer? Parents and other concerned people ought to be talking about how to ensure that vaccinations are the best they can be and given to all to protect them now and in the future.
This seems especially poignant since so many of the grandparents of those children now under discussion have the potential to get shingles from chicken pox, once a right pf passage in childhood whose future repercussions were little known. Surely being able to spare a child something as bad as contagious diseases now and future problems related to them is worth it?
Shouldn’t pour concerns be about the best way to move forward, not how we can be given the right to slide backward? Can we not trust that medicine and science are still relevant and that they can still be trusted? And if part of the argument is that the government is not the best agent of supervision over such activity, then shouldn’t we, as members of a democracy, put pressure on the leadership to act like leaders and pave the path to a solid solution that does not put our children at greater risk than necessary?
In the end, what are we really talking about here? Is the discussion about the best way to raise our children and protect our society or is it about the fear and paranoia that seems to be so much a part of what the American dialogue is becoming?
Surely we are capable of better and surely our children deserve that.