copyright 2012                    www.      home                               about us

Welcome to project Worldview's
Worldview Watch

periodic commentary and analysis on news items from a worldview perspective

 previous issue                                          issue #24,  posted 5 / 8 / 2012                       archive of all  issues

Unvaccinated Children, Public Health, and Worldviews

in the news:  An article in the May 5th issue of The Economist describes how increasing numbers of American parents are invoking "philosophical exemptions" and choosing not to have  their children vaccinated against diseases like polio, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, etc. and how this is beginning to pose threats to public health. As the article puts it, "the issue runs straight into the classic American tension between individual choice, which is good, and public health and safety, which is also good."

commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, project Worldview, This issue connects with the theme of our last Worldview Watch column #23 "Regulating Society: We Know What's Best for You". Here laws passed in "We Know What's Best for You" fashion mandate vaccinations unless parents cite religious (valid in all but two states) or philosophical (valid in twenty states) reasons to opt out.  What themes might characterize the worldviews of parents who choose to opt out compared to those who choose to have their children vaccinated?  Consider the following:   

Contrasting Worldview Themes Related to the Issue of Vaccinating Children 

some worldview themes perhaps valued by those who generally accept the need for vaccinating their children  worldview themes perhaps valued by those who generally oppose vaccinating their children 
#6 Scientific Method #2B  I Know What's Best For You 
#28B Healthy Orientation  #27 Belonging to Nature 
#42  Ethical Orientation #36B Conspiracism 
#46A Technological Fix Mentality #50A   Libertarian
#49A   Social Welfare Statism #50B  Left Anarchist

The worldviews of who oppose the vaccinations are perhaps shaped by diverse factors, including a general dislike of government telling people what to do (libertarians and anarchists), by conspiracy theory motivated books or internet websites spreading misinformation in claiming a link between autism and vaccines, a strong preference for natural food/lifestyle that views vaccines as manmade and unhealthy, etc. While the opposing vaccines camp might undoubtedly house individuals with otherwise generally incompatible worldviews, all of them seem to feel that "I Know What's Best for You" given their choice to shield their children from what they perceive to be vaccinations for which the risk outweighs the benefit. That perception may eventually change. As The Economist article concludes, "’s parents are the first in history with no memory of the maiming and killing caused by polio, tetanus, diphtheria or measles. At some point an epidemic will remind them."  

Not only do vaccines protect the treated individuals, but they provide a "herd immunity" that helps limit the disease's spread. But if typically only one of every ten children are unvaccinated that "herd immunity" begins to fail.  It seems then that opting out of vaccinating your children involves an ethical consideration. That is, consider the "Ethical Orientation" of worldview theme #42 and ask yourself,  "What would be the results if everyone acted in this manner?"  If significant numbers of parents opt out, horrible diseases that vaccines have largely conquered--like smallpox, diphtheria, polio, etc.--may eventually return to threaten everyone. 

Your Comments -- email them to us, put Worldview Watch #24 in subject line, click here