In light of the recent media hype surrounding a few small measles “outbreaks” occurring throughout the country, one question comes to mind: to what degree, if any should the government become involved in such “outbreaks.” The question is important because this involvement, as well as associated medical costs, are being used as the latest cudgel with which to beat into submission those supporting vaccine choice. Recently, one establishment insider lamented:
When a woman from Switzerland who had not been vaccinated for measles visited Tucson in 2008 and became symptomatic, she went to a local hospital for medical attention. This initiated a chain of events that over the next three months led to at least 14 people, including seven kids, getting measles. Seven of the victims caught the disease while visiting healthcare facilities. Four people had to be hospitalized. The outbreak cost two local hospitals a total of nearly $800,000 [four people at 200,000 a piece? Really?], and the state and local health departments tens of thousands more, to track down the cases, quarantine and treat the sick and notify the thousands of people who might have been exposed.
Later he complains:
Outbreaks are costing the healthcare system millions of dollars, and local and state government (that’s taxpayer money, yours and mine) millions more as they try to chase down each outbreak and bring it under control to protect the public’s health. Your health, and mine.
So, is it the governments role to “chase down” outbreaks? And if the answer is yes, does the government need to chase down every outbreak and should it do it with an unlimited budget? Let’s look at this example to help us decide. Imagine a movie or TV show in which a woman on a plane, unbeknownst to her, has contracted some type of “superbug” against which no one is immune, death is likely and transmission is easy. The woman is unaware of her state yet infectious. In this case, due to the circumstances described, the government should act. The woman is creating a risk to those with whom she comes into contact whether she knows it or not. So yes there are cases when the government should become involved with infectious illnesses. However, in the example of the small measles outbreak, the case for intervention, while plausible, is not nearly as strong – and it certainly does not support the use of unlimited resources. Here’s why. A woman with the measles would enter into a highly vaccinated population; if there were no vaccine, she’d enter into a population high in natural immunity. And the measles is, as illnesses go, mild. Finally, almost everyone disturbed by the news of an outbreak would have access to vaccination. One final factor influencing the decision to act is whether or not the intervention could be expected to help. For example, because of the ubiquity of the flu, quarantine and tracking would be a pointless task. On the other hand with few cases of the measles, it’s possible that government interventions could help – although I’ve seen no evidence that all the money spent to supposedly “contain” measles outbreaks have had any effect on the course of those outbreaks.
In the pre-vaccine era, quarantines were (unless involving illnesses perceived to be serious, e.g., smallpox, polio or the 1918 influenza) hardly necessary. People acted responsibly and kept their sick or exposed children home. (People can and do act responsibly even without coercion from the authorities.)
But that’s not what you’ll hear from public health. It believes that, regarding its role, no incident is too small and no expenditure of funds is too great. Unfortunately, since all resources are limited, and must therefore be allocated based on the benefits of those allocations, that belief is false. Yet, as an entrenched bureaucracy, public health’s existence, and its degree of influence, is dependant on its ability to create the impression that infectious illness are far more dangerous than they actually are and that public health is an indispensable bulwark against the spread of those illnesses. As such, letting them decided the degree to which they should get involved is a classic example of allowing the fox to guard the hen house.
But what about the astronomical costs of hospitalization? Surely that’s the fault of the unvaccinated. Not really. Our current “healthcare system” is a government-created monstrosity apparently designed with the purpose of driving healthcare costs to absurd levels. Some of the factors involved in the meteoric rise in the price of medical care can be traced directly to government (not the unvaccinated) and include a government-granted medical monopoly for the AMA, Medicare and Medicaid: two enormous entities both rife with waste and abuse, insurance industry regulations mandating unwanted coverage and limiting competition between companies, the countenancing of frivolous multi-million dollar lawsuits that compel doctors to practice “defensive” medicine and finally the control over where and how many hospitals can be built.
Finally, as to hospitalizations, without detailed information (rarely provided by public health officials) I have to question a measles-associated hospitalization rate that far exceeds any past utilization numbers. Regardless, the costs incurred by a government engaged in it’s legitimate function does not countenance the violation of the rights of the American people – if money is a problem within the current system, your only solution is to dismantle that system. And if you’re not willing to do that, stop complaining.
So to those who warn, “You better get those shots, we can’t afford it if you don’t.” I say we can ill afford to surrender the freedom to decide what drugs and medications we give our children, for when we lose that freedom, the cost of a measles outbreak will be the least of our concerns.
Robert Schecter is the parent of a fifteen year old unvaccinated daughter; a stock & commodities investor, writer, founder & editor of The Vaccine Machine: a blog challenging the vested interests dedicated to vaccinating our children by any means necessary.