Earlier this year, NMA hosted its first ever panel discussion, “Achieving Childhood Vaccination Success in the US” featuring experts in health, science, law, and ethics addressing a range of topics from vaccine skeptics to physicians straying from the recommended vaccine schedules to the role of the media in shaping beliefs about vaccines – all issues that have come up several times during this election season.
Vaccination education and awareness remain central to NMA’s education and policy efforts. “As a parent whose child died from bacterial meningitis – a vaccine preventable disease – and as a grandmother of three little ones, getting kids vaccinated is an important subject for me,” said Lynn Bozof, President of NMA. “Although, at present, NMA primary focus is on adolescent vaccines, early childhood vaccines lay the framework for vaccine success throughout the lifespan, from infancy to adult immunization.”
“We think about ‘the government’ imposing [vaccine mandates] on us. [But] I’d like to suggest to everyone that the imposition of laws, the passage of these laws was the epitome of American democracy because these are not federal laws enacted by a distant congress in Washington. Each state had to enact a law that was, in effect, no shots, no school… Fifty times, this issue had to come before the American people in a governmental forum at the state level, which is close to the people, and had to be debated in each state [except Nebraska]. So, 99 times, this was debated in a body of our elected representatives and was passed 99 times and was sent then to the governors of those fifty states, who represented the entire spectrum of political thought here in the United States. And those governors all signed. If that’s not the epitome of American democracy, providing legislation for the protection of our children, I don’t know what is. So I think that’s actually a superb example of the people working for the benefit of our children.”
Science stresses the importance of vaccinating as many people as possible to protect the most vulnerable – including those too young or too old to get vaccinated themselves.
Despite the science, powerful anti-vaccine voices still hold sway in many parts of this country. As recent years, have made clear, we need to approach vaccine skepticism aggressively and tactically.
“I don’t think we’re going to win the battle against hesitators and vaccine resistors by facts. The issue becomes one of ethics and you need to have ethics in a couple ways,” said Arthur Caplan, an NYU professor of medical ethics best known for assessing moral issues connected to medical interventions and actions, including vaccination. “Vaccination is almost always about the community. It’s almost always about your neighbors, it’s almost always about protecting the vulnerable, the vulnerable kid, the vulnerable older person, the person who’s immune suppressed … but we make it out like it’s just your choice. That’s very American – we’re individualistic, we’re autonomous … and I didn’t even get to Texas yet. But you’ve gotta stress, I think, that you do this because you’re not a jerk. You don’t put kids at risk, you don’t put other people at risk, you do the right thing, I would add the facts into that ethical commentary that the right thing to do is to be a good member of your community. And you’re not if you don’t vaccinate.”
You can watch the full panel discussion below. Remember to stay informed and vote responsibly this and every election.