Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

The vaccination debateS—notice the plural

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 03, 2015

If you’ve only followed the story in the American mass media, you might think that the hot new debate is whether or not children should be vaccinated. But that’s not the interesting question.

The real issue—the question that interests me, anyway—is which vaccines should be administered.

Polio vaccine? Sure. Smallpox vaccine? Yes. Gardasil? No. Vaccines for measles and mumps? Sure, if you can get them. But there’s the rub. In the US today you can’t get those vaccines, without adding the rubella vaccine that raises the key moral problem.

If we dumb down this debate, reducing it to a question of whether or not vaccination should be mandatory—without making any distinctions among the vaccines proposed—we’re creating a situation in which government officials could require any and all vaccines, regardless of their costs, benefits, or moral implications. Government officials shouldn't be empowered to make medical decisions.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: debi8964 - Feb. 03, 2015 7:55 PM ET USA

    Actually the outbreak is not entirely due to unvaccinated children. The CDC reports as of Jan 30th that there are 102 cases in 14 states. The State of CA reports as of Feb 2nd they have 92 cases. That leaves 10 cases in the remaining 12 states so someone is double counting somewhere. Also, keep in mind that in 2014 the CDC reports over 600 cases of measles - why was there no hysteria then? Its also notable that CA Health Dept reports 62% of the infections were in people over 20 years old.

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Feb. 03, 2015 1:41 PM ET USA

    I think some nuance and caution would be appropriate regarding the concluding line. Government officials have long made medical decisions that impact the public safety. Quarantines and other methods of controlling infection. Vaccines for serious diseases such as smallpox and polio, where people not being vaccinated can put large numbers in danger. As we see in California, parents not vaccinating children for measles has resulted in infants too young for the vaccine being infected. Nuance here.