Herd Immunity

Vaccination is a cornerstone of conventional medical practice—so much so that “vaccination” and “immunization” are used interchangeably. That’s because a complex of social forces has created a kind of herd effect: anyone who questions the wisdom of vaccination, especially the vaccination of children, is ignored, shouted down, ostracized, and even threatened with jail time.

The State of California’s Assembly is considering legislation that further promotes the mass vaccination of children. The current State law already requires the vaccination of every child who attends public school. However, parents can obtain an exemption on philosophical grounds. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

The new legislation (Assembly Bill 2109), sponsored by the California Medical Association, would require parents to obtain written permission for an exemption from an MD. Naturopaths and chiropractors are excluded. This will undoubtedly herd even more children into being vaccinated.

The rationale for forced vaccination is herd immunity: an infectious disease will not spread if enough people in a population have developed immunity to it. The reason is fairly simple. There are three steps to the spread of an infectious disease: exposure, infection, and sickness.

You won’t get sick if you’re not exposed. Even if you’re exposed, you won’t get sick if you don’t get infected. And even if you’re infected, you won’t get sick if your immune system neutralizes the infection. So from the herd’s perspective, the spread of disease is prevented by minimizing exposures, preventing infection, and supporting a healthy immune system throughout the herd.

Here’s where I have a problem with this argument.

If someone is vaccinated, they are supposedly protected and so no longer at risk. If someone choses to take the risk of sickness by not being vaccinated, why is that anyone else’s business? So long as people are well-informed of the risks, why do you need anyone’s permission to opt out?

What makes sense of this is two curses that plague our culture. These twins have been with us in full force since the beginning of the last Century and show no signs of weakening.

The first curse is that a new technology is taken as a matter of faith to have only a good side—until it’s shown after a lot of suffering to have a bad side.

The second curse is the culture of expertise in which not only do experts have the institutional power to decide what is good for us, we happily go along.

Now let me say clearly that public health is rightly based on the principle that actions that one person takes that put others at risk involuntarily ought to be regulated. Although those actions should be regulated to the satisfaction of those at risk, what typically happens is they are regulated to the satisfaction of experts. Of course, that’s part of the culture of expertise.

The herd immunity rationale for vaccination falls apart because the risk of disease is entirely voluntary.

So this permission slip law makes no sense to me from a public health standpoint. However, it makes perfect sense from the standpoint of the political economy of conventional medicine. In addition to the culture of expertise that herds us into technological corrals, there are two other herding effects.

First, the physician Suzanne Humphreys argues that doctors are simply indoctrinated into the faith of vaccination, confusing the interventionist medical practice of vaccination with the promotion of biology immunity. Second, Mike Adams argues that the pharmaceutical industry and the Pentagon create immense pressure to promote vaccination through their influence on agencies such as the Institute of Medicine.

Of course, the crucial question is whether vaccination risks harm or is instead all sunny skies.

Here’s an example. The eradication of polio is supposed to demonstrate the triumph of vaccination. Yet there’s a diagnostic slight-of-hand going on. While poliomyelitis cases have declined, the number of cases of Acute Flaccid Paralysis has increased. This is an umbrella diagnosis for conditions of weakness that include polio as well as chronic fatigue syndrome, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and other conditions of muscular weakness and paralysis. As mass polio vaccinations have increased, the cases of Acute Flaccid Paralysis have also increased. Some think there’s a connection. They are ignored.

When the 20th Century opened a little over 100 years ago, the dominant cause of death was infectious disease. The gospel of technological progress tells us that it was vaccination and other medical miracles that stopped all that.

The truth is that it was sanitation, improved nutrition, and rising incomes that eliminated infectious disease as a primary killer, especially of children. But the medical herd holds rabidly to the myth that everyone should be vaccinated. If you disagree, you don’t count.