Looking to the Founders: Immunize Your Kids, David Yee argues that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were pro-vaccine. It's an interesting bit of history and one that I do not challenge.
However, the article implies that Jefferson and Franklin would take the side of pro-vaccination in the debate taking place in our country today. It is this implication that I argue against, as the debate taking place today is not just about vaccinations, it is the same debate that took place in our country at its birth; it's about liberty.
Yee points out that Franklin lost one of his children to Smallpox and regretted not attempting to inoculate his son from this disease. Had I experienced Franklin's loss, I would have felt the same way. As a parent, I understand the fear that exists in the decisions that encompass the ever-constant question, "What is best for my child?"
From this point of view, I understand how people -- especially parents -- get caught up in the hysteria surrounding the dreaded words, "measles," "rubella," "pertussis," and most of all, "outbreak!" But being afraid for our children doesn't mean we are excused from suspending rational thought. No one is attempting to remove people's ability to vaccinate themselves or their children.
Had Franklin been alive today, perhaps he would encourage vaccinations for everyone, or perhaps his research would lead him to question the ever-expanding vaccine schedule. The point is, Benjamin Franklin is not known in history for his medical opinions on vaccines. While surely known as a man of science, we see his face on the hundred dollar bill not because he discovered electricity, but because of his role in our nation's founding -- a role that placed himself and his entire family at risk!
Franklin believed in liberty and felt it was worth fighting for. He believed that liberty should be preserved and not sacrificed. He is famously quoted as saying, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little bit of safety deserve neither liberty or safety."If Franklin were alive today, I'd like to think he'd stand up to the medical tyranny of mandating vaccinations. I have to believe this "Founder" would be very much against such a policy.
David Yee also addresses Thomas Jefferson's opinion on the matter by pointing out that Jefferson personally financed efforts to inoculate Native Americans. Yee summed up his writings on Jefferson with the words, "Jefferson didn't just give vaccines lip-service - he believed in them."
As with Franklin, Jefferson also "believed" in liberty.
Today, support for mandating vaccinations is being done in the name of "public safety." But make no mistake, any law passed by the government is a sacrifice of our personal liberties. I am not arguing that no laws should ever be passed, and I don't believe that Jefferson would argue that either. I do believe that when a law is passed, the question of whether or not it violates our rights must be answered.
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual." - Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson gave his own money to a campaign against Smallpox. However, I know of no evidence showing he desired laws mandating such actions or asked for the government to help fund his efforts. And let's remember that this was an effort against a disease that killed 1 in 3! Not like the flagship vaccine issue of today, measles, which is essentially harmless.
Yes, the measles infection is harmless, and despite the CDC's efforts to make it seem otherwise, it even refers to the disease as starting with "a runny nose, fever, cough, red eyes, and sore throat," followed by "a rash that spreads over the body."The CDC does mention that the disease is highly contagious and highly recommends receiving the MMR ( Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine. However, the agency also posted
research indicating that prior to 1963 (the years prior to the measles vaccine campaign) an estimated 4 to 5 million people contracted the measles in the U.S. every year. Of those cases, a staggering 500 deaths annually were reported. 500 deaths out of 5,000,000 cases is certainly not the same as 1 out of 3.
Just like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson was a man of many things. But again, history remembers him not as the man who fought against Smallpox, but the man who fought for liberty. As he said himself, "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it."Religious or philosophical objections should be a moot point. The power of government was what sparked our revolution in the first place and what dominated all debates in the formation of our country.
If we look to the Founders for answers in regards to today's vaccination debate, we can find them best summed up in the words of Patrick Henry: "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"
Image: Protesters against mandatory vaccinations / Source: AP