The British just announced that thus far, this year’s flu vaccine in Britain was only 3 percent effective. As a result, public health authorities in Britain anticipate a one-third increase in flu and cold weather deaths among the elderly, probably leading to an overall death toll by spring approaching almost 50,000.
The poor vaccine performance is not a surprise. A few months ago, the American CDC announced that the protection afforded in the United States by the same vaccine was about 22 percent—the usual is in the 60 percent range, though the flu vaccine has performed poorly in previous seasons. (For those wanting a definition of vaccine “effectiveness” and “efficacy” should click here. Good luck).
These reports are appearing at the exact moment that America is in a heated “debate” about measles vaccination, resulting from a still-ongoing Disneyland measles outbreak affecting more than 100 people. Measles vaccine, it must be stated, is not hit-or-miss like flu vaccine but rather is 99+ percent effective year in and year out.
At first glance, the flu vaccination news would seem like a useful fact for the noisy anti-vaccination crowd, some wind beneath their wings. And it’s looking bad for them right now—I mean even Bobby Jindal is pro-vaccination. (Sort of. If you and your family think it is the right thing to do.)
Rather than good news for the beleaguered group of anti-vaxxers, though, the lousy performance of the flu vaccine this year actually points out the very basis for a mandatory vaccine program. As happened in 2009 when a novel H1N1 Swine flu untouched by any vaccine caused a pandemic, affecting about 60 million Americans and hundreds of millions worldwide, we saw the true might of a virus given a free pass without any check or balance by an effective vaccine. In other words, without an effective vaccine against a serious and easily transmitted infection, the bottom actually does fall out. This is your society on no vaccines.
Which means that mandatory vaccination is as essential to an organized modern daily life as mandatory education of children. The same rules apply—the measure of the benefit of good schools is to examine the deleterious impact of a weak school just like a bad vaccine year points out how necessary the vaccine actually is. Indeed, the analogy extends even farther—the provision of health and education represents the most basic, non-negotiable obligation of any society: to assure the next generation has a decent opportunity to live a long and fulfilling life.
Much has been made of the fact that anti-vaxxers are composed of a strange bedfellows combo of left-wing, mother knows best narcissists and right-wing anti-government paranoids for whom the only good government is a dead government. They do constitute an interesting conjunction but at the heart of each is the same cruel arrogance and selfish disregard for community—the same community each group claims to long for, and with equal-sized crocodile tears.
Interestingly, these two groups also are fond of home schooling. There, their concern is identical—not the putative danger or governmental strong-arming around vaccines but the perceived need to avoid a sort of cultural toxicity. Being an island unto themselves is a necessary defense against the crashing crassness that surrounds them.
But their decision to avoid vaccines and group schooling causes more problems than just disease transmission and uncertain SAT scores. It removes parents and their children from the pulse of the neighborhood. This in turns imparts a much more corrosive toxicity to the group around them, one that leaves a permanent stain: the lasting mark of the relentlessly selfish.