Magic wasn’t the only thing in the air last December at Disneyland when a visitor who had unknowingly contracted measles exposed thousands of other people to the disease. Since then, at least 118 cases have been reported in California.
The spread of measles is not limited to the state’s borders; 176 cases have been reported nationwide, spanning 17 states and the District of Columbia. Cases have also been reported in Canada and Mexico. At least 130 of these cases trace back to Disneyland, an incident that occurred as a direct result of the refusal of some people to receive vaccinations.
This event, as recent as it was, spurred what is predicted to be another controversial issue in the upcoming presidential election of 2016: Vaccinations.
This event, as recent as it was, spurred what is predicted to be another controversial issue in the upcoming presidential election of 2016: vaccinations.
Although the majority of the American people support mandating specific vaccinations, many consider the possibility a breach of their civil liberties, including the right to govern one’s own body. The movement against enforced vaccinations was especially fueled in 1998 after British medical researcher Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent study drawing a connection between autism and the MMR vaccine, which is for measles, mumps and rubella. Though his findings were disproved, the damage done to the American public was irreversible, leaving an audience of skeptics when it came to scientific claims.
Upper School history teacher Tracy Walder believes the government should exercise the right to mandate specific vaccinations.
“It boils down to public health,” she said, citing the 1905 Supreme Court case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts. Henning Jacobson, a Swedish immigrant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was fined for refusing to receive a smallpox vaccination on the basis that he had fallen sick after receiving a vaccination as a child. After bringing his case before the Supreme Court, Jacobson lost on the principle that the government should be allowed to take action for the common good. Walder related the case back to today, saying “[anyone who is not vaccinated] is endangering the health of the public.”
Her views align somewhat with those of senior Bridget Colliton, president of the Young Democrats Club.
Colliton, though an advocate of the government being able to mandate specific vaccines, believes that Americans should be able to refuse vaccines on the basis of maintaining their civil liberties. However, in “[being] given the choice not to get vaccinated, [these people] should be given additional responsibilities,” she said, such as home schooling and intermittent check-ups. These responsibilities would be enforced by the federal government on the same principle, equating one’s right to not receive a vaccination to another’s right to visit public places without the fear of contracting a disease.
Juliette Turner, president of the Young Republicans Club, disagrees.
Noting the difference between protecting the American public and infringing upon its’ rights, Turner primarily focuses on the importance of protecting state sovereignty. A believer in “limit[ing] the overreach of the federal government,” she said, under the umbrella of health care, the issue of vaccinations should be left up to the states.
“Nowhere in the Constitution does it stipulate that the federal government should be in charge of personal health,” she said, declaring said right a states’ right in reference to the Tenth Amendment.
Turner ultimately views the prospect of the enforcement of vaccinations unconstitutional and believes that “the federal government cannot dictate to all citizens.”
Because many Texans have adopted views similar to those of Turner, the number of children statewide opting not to take vaccines has jumped from 2,314 to 38,197 in the past decade, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
A recent poll by CNN suggests otherwise, however, reporting that not only does 60 percent of the American public support the barring of unvaccinated children from public school and day care, but 78 percent support the government mandating vaccinations.
This statistic correlates directly with findings from a poll taken of 100 Hockaday students, where approximately 75 percent of students in the Upper School support mandating vaccines, as opposed to the 11 percent of the student body in favor of exemption based on personal beliefs. This takes into account that 13 percent of those polled proclaimed themselves to be indifferent or unaware of the political issue.
Expect regular doses of controversy to the American public as presidential candidates continue to debate over and take stances on the issue of vaccinations.
– Hufsa Husain