Flu season is approaching, and with it the inevitable antivaccination campaigns. I would like to address these and argue that ultimately, vaccination is necessary.
First off, vaccines have been scientifically shown not to cause autism. I literally can’t say anything else about that.
Second, some people oppose vaccinations by citing their potential dangers, but such hazards have been proven incredibly rare. Opting out of a vaccine out of fear of side effects is selfish and dangerous. A basic concept in epidemiology is herd immunity: if a certain percentage of a population is immune (via vaccination) to a disease, then the few individuals who remain susceptible will be protected from getting sick, because there aren’t enough of them to efficiently spread the disease. Those susceptible spots should be reserved for those who physically can’t receive the vaccination because they are immunocompromised or allergic to it. The consequences of their falling ill are much greater than the negligible risk associated with the vaccine.
Third is the issue of animal testing, which I believe is a more nuanced debate. I acknowledge that it’s horrifically selfish to take an anthropocentric view of the world, and that it is cruel and exploitative to test our own technologies on other creatures. Clearly the diversity of life didn’t evolve solely for the purpose of sustaining humans. But the truth is that in order to sustain our current population of 7.3 billion people, other species must be exploited, whether through animal testing, deforestation, or pollution. I hate it, but that’s the world we’ve inherited, and there’s no immediate solution.
In an ideal world, if we maintained a small enough population to fill but not exceed the niche our species originally inhabited, we wouldn’t have so many problems with densitydependent diseases (those that require large, mobile populations to spread). As a result, we wouldn’t be so reliant on vaccination and animal testing to maintain our health. The trouble is, we’ve gotten to the point of a self-perpetuating cycle of vaccination and population growth: the bigger our population can grow, and the more we need vaccination. But the answer is not to simply reject vaccination and allow allowing devastating pandemics to sweep the planet. Because even through the most objective lens, this would involve cruelty against the animals called humans.
I would also argue that at this point our culture prevents us from existing without vaccinations; using life-saving medical technologies is essential to our standard of life. Prior to the invention of vaccines, it was not uncommon for children to die young. But now, at least in “Western” society, such deaths are unusual and, when they do occur, are considered great tragedies.
We can’t accept a lifestyle in which vaccines are not present, because our expectation of the survival of every baby born has become so ingrained that we take the technologies responsible for granted. So it seems kind of hypocritical to protest vaccination on the grounds of animal testing but to also accept our current standard of life as augmented by animal-tested medical technologies.