Doxing anti-vaxxers

If you click on the “Vaccines” category for this blog, you’ll find two other articles preceding this one. Vaccines is one topic that probably riles people up more than abortion and gun rights. Combined.

That said, I’m a staunch advocate of vaccination. It’s very safe and very effective at preventing the contraction of various communicable diseases. However, being a staunch libertarian, I always believe it should be up to a person as to whether or not they will take the vaccines or allow them to be administered to their children. That being said, the government has the power to determine the vaccination requirements for children attending public schools under their purview:

When you send your kids to a public school or private school, you have to abide by the rules of the game. It’s as plain as that. Public schools are owned and operated by the local or state government. As such, the government sets rules about attendance and those who attend.

An obvious example of this is the vaccination schedule. For decades, public schools have required that students be vaccinated in accordance with a recommended schedule codified in their regulations. For the most part these schedules follow the CDC recommendations. If you do not keep your child’s vaccines up to date, you will be notified of the noncompliance. If you refuse to bring your child’s vaccinations back into compliance, your child will be removed from the school, and other repercussions could arise as well.

Now a lot of school districts and States do allow for the medical equivalent of “conscientious objectors” with regard to vaccines. There are a couple problems with the idea related to how vaccines work. First, not every vaccine provides 100% impenetrable immunity in every person who takes it, yet anti-vaccine advocates readily propagate this straw-man argument: “If you’re child is fully vaccinated, why are you so concerned about my unvaccinated child?” No vaccine is 100% effective, and no vaccine expert will say such. That is why we are still concerned.

This goes on the concept of “herd immunity”. Herd immunity is established when a pathogen’s presence in a population is relegated to one or a few individuals and the pathogen cannot spread beyond that. Herd immunity does not mean no presence of a pathogen in a population. But if it is introduced, it cannot spread. Herd immunity protects those who cannot be vaccinated and those in whom the vaccine for some reason is not effective.

Again, no vaccine is 100% effective. Not everyone can take it, and it won’t take in everyone. That is why herd immunity is extremely important to population health and the eradication of communicable pathogens.

That being said, though, if you are one such “conscientious objector”, should your refusal to vaccinate your children be public knowledge?

Mike Drago of the Dallas Morning News seems to think so: “If you don’t [vaccinate your children], and your kid goes to school with mine, I should get a note or a call from school about it, pronto.” Except there’s a huge problem with this idea: medical privacy laws. But Drago has already thought of that: “I suggested we amend the ‘Affidavit Request for Exemption’ with language effectively asking parents to waive their privacy protections.”

One way you can easily tell if ideas like these are bad ideas is to apply them to other areas. After all, I’m pretty sure the anti-abortion right would love to extend this idea to abortions and make signing away your privacy rights a condition of obtaining an abortion or birth control. Anti-gun advocates are practically calling for just that with calls for universal registration, especially given that a newspaper in New York published the names and addresses of those who had a handgun permit.

Even better, let’s extend it to the First Amendment. Want to speak your mind on a political matter? Better be willing to give up your right to privacy. Note that I am aware of the invasion of privacy known as “doxing”, and I do not advocate or condone its practice in the least. But Drago is saying that anyone who refuses to vaccinate themselves or their children should essentially be “doxxed”.

Like it or not, we do have the right to body autonomy. Sure not being vaccinated means that you could potentially risk the health of others. So, then, why aren’t you calling for “doxing” everyone who refuses to wash their hands after using the restroom? If you don’t wash your hands properly and use hand sanitizer to further reduce your own personal chance of spreading a communicable disease, I’m afraid you’re a much greater risk to population health than a couple conscientious vaccine objectors.

Remember, in the wrong person, any pathogen can be fatal. So you not washing your hands properly could cause a child or immuno-compromised adult to be exposed to a virus or bacterial strain that causes a debilitating case of diarrhea.

One unvaccinated child is not a significant risk to the health of a population. Even a few unvaccinated children will not be a significant risk. If those children are never exposed to the pathogens against which vaccines are available, they are not a risk to anyone with regard to those pathogens. But a schedule-compliant vaccinated child who isn’t taught how to properly wash his/her hands is a greater health risk than a child whose parents didn’t get him/her vaccinated according to schedule.

Let’s keep the risks into perspective. And the perspective is simple. You are likely a greater risk to your children’s health than your children’s classmates.

That being said, there are vaccine-preventable pathogens that are still common in the United States. Pertussis is one, along with influenza and HPV. With these, the possibility of exposure is significantly higher than for measles, and everyone should be vaccinated against them according to recommendations. But it is disgusting to call for “doxxing” those who don’t vaccinate.

In any decision, there needs to be a cost/benefit analysis. There is no benefit to publicly outing those who don’t vaccinate. There is plenty of cost, though, especially in a currency we cannot afford to spend: our liberties.

Instead, this is just an idea by a few people who want to shame people for making a contrary decision.