Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mass vaccination

In principle, one could have a legitimate ideological debate over the role of gov't. For instance, a libertarian could consistently oppose the mass vaccination of children.

From what I can tell, the basic reason we vaccinate school children is convenience. If you want to perform mass vaccination, then that gives you a captive audience. Due to compulsory public education (with some exceptions), you already have the younger generation massed in various locations where it's easy to administer vaccination. Moreover, since they're minors, they can't protest the way the adult population could.

However, Bachmann and Santorum aren't libertarians. They don't oppose public education. And they don't oppose the mass vaccination of school children for smallpox, polio, diphtheria, &c.

In addition, Bachmann is fueling conspiracy theories about the vaccine. Of course, vaccination involves a cost/benefit analysis. A slight statistical risk that the vaccine will backfire in a faction of cases. But the risk to the few is offset by the benefit to the many. Once again, Bachmann and Santorum accept that tradeoff for other vaccines.


  1. As I understand it, the primary rationale for mass vaccination is to establish herd immunity, which serves the public good. But that argument doesn't apply to HPV, which is transmitted almost exclusively through sexual contact. Or at least, it doesn't apply outside of California.

  2. But even on those grounds, Bachmann's position is still inconsistent:

    "(Although it's worth pointing out that Bachmann's home state requires students to be immunized against Hepatitis B, which can be spread through sexual contact).",_huh