Stossel: Should the government mandate getting a vaccine?
Politicians love force.
The idea of leaving us alone to make our own decisions goes against their nature.
To be sure, civilized society sometimes needs government force: police to punish killers, soldiers to protect us from foreign invaders, environmental police to stop my smoke from flowing to your lungs …
But the political class always goes too far.
Now some want medical police to force everyone to get vaccinated. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already.
“It has!” you say. “I have to get vaccinated to keep my job, for my kids to attend school, to go to the movies, a restaurant, etc.”
That’s force, absolutely. But it’s not mandatory. There’s an out — we don’t have to work for the government, eat indoors or go to a movie theater. We can home-school our kids. We still have choice.
So far, politicians haven’t sent police into homes to force everyone to get vaccinated.
They did do that once.
In Philadelphia 30 years ago, a measles outbreak sickened 1,400 people, mostly children, and killed nine. The outbreak spread because leaders of two fundamentalist churches told congregants to refuse the vaccine; God would do the healing.
Philadelphia’s health department got a court order that compelled parents to allow their kids to be vaccinated.
Remarkably, “They complied with the law,” says vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit in my new video. “They were law-abiding.” The Philadelphia parents didn’t fight the order. That ended the epidemic.
But I doubt that vaccine-resistant Americans would be similarly compliant today. Now there’s an anti-vaccine movement. I’m surprised by the outpouring of hatred for Offit on my YouTube and Facebook channels that follows my video.
Some of it is nonsense from ignorant anti-vaxxers. But I respect commenters expressing versions of the chant, “My body, my choice!”
That slogan makes a good point.
We are not really free if we don’t own our own bodies. (It’s another reason to oppose the Drug War.) Individuals should get to decide what’s put in our own bodies.
But a deadly pandemic is a special case.
COVID-19 continues to kill, partly because some people refuse the vaccine. “This virus has a great many friends,” complains Offit. “Science denialists, conspiracy theorists, political pundits. It’s hard to watch.”
“People have reason to be suspicious!” I say. “The government has experimented on people and lied to people.”
(Officials once promised Black syphilis patients treatment but gave them empty pills. The CIA sneaked LSD into people’s drinks. More recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Americans don’t need to wear masks, and then he said we should wear masks.)
“I’m not saying that the government hasn’t done things that make one trust them less,” Offit responds. “Or that the CDC hasn’t made statements that were incorrect, (but) such is the nature of science. You do learn as you go.”
What we have learned now is that the vaccine does dramatically reduce hospitalization and death, and we’d all be better off if more people took it.
Vaccine skeptics point to media reports of “breakthrough” cases, vaccinated people who get COVID-19 anyway. Offit’s reply? “I’m on CNN and MSNBC a lot … I think they want to scare people.”
They do. It raises ratings, and it makes reporters feel important.
But Offit points out that even after delta, “99.5% of people killed by this virus are unvaccinated! Ninety-seven percent of those hospitalized are unvaccinated! No vaccine works 100%.”
Today’s COVID-19 vaccines have now been tested on millions of people. It’s clear that they are very safe and that they save lives.
It’s why Offit would mandate vaccinations.
That’s where we disagree.
I consider vaccine refusers foolish and selfish. I got vaccinated, and I wish you would.
But government should never force a treatment on people. That’s tyranny.
That said, I shouldn’t say “never.”
If you are proven a direct threat to others — if your behavior kills — then the safety police do have a right to step in to stop you from hurting others.
Short of that, politicians should never force us to put anything into our own bodies.
John Stossel is author of “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media.”