There is a lot of controversy in society today surrounding vaccines. As with the larger society, there is significant disagreement among libertarians on the topic. In this article, I lay out the many solid reasons why libertarians should oppose the government vaccine program. Just to be clear upfront, this is a different issue from whether or not one ought to vaccinate. The latter issue is a decision that should be made based on the risks and benefits involved, as well as the available alternatives, just as with any other medical procedure. This article focuses on the nature of the vaccine program itself. The discussion below will in some places describe how the U.S. program operates, but many aspects work similarly in other countries.
There are 4 fundamental aspects of the vaccine program which run counter to how things should work within a free society.
- The vaccine program violates individual liberty
- The program is crony capitalist to the core
- The vaccine program is built upon a foundation of central planning
- The program contributes significantly to the concentration of political power
Individual Liberty Considerations
Fundamental to individual liberty is the notion that we own our bodies. We are not slaves. It follows from this that we can decide how to use our bodies as we see fit, e.g. choose which foods and medicines we will take, and which medical procedures we will or will not undergo.
This last issue is not just something that libertarians believe. Informed consent became part of international law after the horrific medical experiments undertaken by Nazi Germany. The Nuremburg Code was originally set out to develop rules for medical experiments and it was subsequently applied to medical procedures as well.
Informed consent has 2 components: The first is that we are properly informed about the potential risks, benefits, and alternatives to any medical intervention. In the next couple sections, I will show how the government vaccine program fails to properly inform. The second component, of consent, is pretty straightforward for a competent adult, but more involved in the case of young children. I will address this latter issue in the section discussing parental authority.
The Crony Capitalistic Nature of the Program
The vaccine program is in essence a partnership between the government (federal, state, and local), the health care industry (primarily the pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession), and the mainstream media. The interrelationships are complex and varied, but here we will examine how five of these relationships undermine the integrity of the program.
- In the U.S., the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) develops recommendations for which vaccines should be required by the states. Per the CDC website:
The final vaccine recommendations include the number of doses of each vaccine, timing between each dose, age when infants and children should receive the vaccine, and precautions and contraindications (who should not receive the vaccine).
CDC sets the immunization schedules based on ACIP’s recommendations. The childhood and adolescent schedules are also approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The adult schedules also approved by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
ACIP stands for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Its members include individuals who have a direct financial interest in the expansion of the vaccine schedules. Likewise, the AAP and other organizations listed above are industry trade groups which stand to benefit financially from the administration of additional vaccines. The pharmaceutical industry works hard to ensure that those in positions of power are supportive of their agenda.
- In the 1980’s, the vaccine makers were hit with a number of large settlements for lawsuits stemming from vaccine injuries. Did the industry respond by working harder to ensure that their products were as safe as they could be? No, instead they went to Congress to obtain an exemption for liability from vaccine harm for those ordering, administering, or manufacturing the vaccines. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was passed in 1986. In the next several years, there was an explosion in the number of vaccines/doses added to the childhood schedule.
- While we can find corruption and ineptitude in all government agencies, it is truly a way of life for the CDC. This is the agency that told us back in 1958 that smoking does not cause cancer. Some readers may recall the Swine Flu Debacle, from the fall of 1976, when dozens of Americans died within 48 hours of receiving a swine flu vaccine. Yet somehow we are supposed to rely on this outfit? While there are many issues related to vaccine safety, the one that has captured the most public attention in recent years has been the controversy over whether or not vaccines can cause autism. Much can and has been written on this topic, but here I will confine my comments to a few CDC scandals that pertain to this topic that should give the thoughtful reader doubts about the veracity of the CDC’s blanket statement that vaccines do not cause autism.
About a year ago, a senior scientist at the CDC, William Thompson, became a whistleblower and admitted that his group, under pressure, covered up a link between early vaccination and autism in their epidemiological studies. They went on to destroy the evidence. If you do not follow these issues closely, you may be unaware of this development, since the mainstream media has been completely silent about a story which, one would think, would have been front page news.
It turns out that several of the epidemiological studies that the CDC relies upon to support its claims that vaccines do not cause autism were done by Danish researcher Paul Thorsen, who is currently on the U.S. Most-Wanted list after being indicted for 22 counts of wire fraud and money laundering.
Finally, check out this revealing interview on this topic, with the former head of the CDC, Julie Gerberding, along with an analysis of her various statements. Clearly, she is speaking with a forked tongue. For her efforts (or lack thereof), Gerberding went on to become the head of Merck’s vaccine division one year after leaving the CDC.
In addition to the CDC’s numerous sins of commission, there is one sin of omission that is worth noting here. It has steadfastly refused, since being charged by the FDA to do so in 1982, to do a large-scale epidemiological study comparing the long-term health status of the fully vaccinated population with the same for the unvaccinated population. Perhaps it realizes that the findings of such a study will not engender support for its program.
- The FDA has come under fire in recent years after having to withdraw several drugs that it had approved as safe. In the Vioxx scandal, the FDA admitted that from Vioxx’s approval in 1999 through 2003, an estimated 27,785 heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths would have been avoided if Celebrex, a competing drug made by Pfizer Inc., had been used instead of Vioxx. The FDA does not carry out research itself, but instead evaluates research done by others seeking FDA approval. Careful observers believe that the FDA has been captured by industry and is not looking out for the public, as it is supposed to. To make matters worse, the FDA oversight and approval process for vaccines is even shoddier than the one used for other classes of therapeutics. Normally, the performance of a new therapeutic is compared to a placebo (e.g. a saline solution) in order to determine its safety and efficacy. But new vaccines are compared to non-inert substances, faux placebos. For example, when the HPV vaccine Gardasil (which contains substantial amounts of the neurotoxin aluminum) was tested, the outcomes for its test subjects were compared to a “control group” given a “placebo” which contained aluminum. So when the researchers tell you that the side effects from Gardasil were not worse than those experienced by the control group, one should realize that this result does not provide any reassurance and such a study is a sham.
- It is an unfortunate fact of life that the mainstream media has a big impact on public opinion, on what people believe is (or is not) true, and on what people believe is (or is not) important. It is also well understood that the mainstream media is heavily influenced by government and that pharmaceutical companies are its largest advertising sponsor. With this in mind, consider the handling of the measles outbreak at Disneyland that happened in early 2015. The media reported on this development incessantly, as though the world were coming to an end, even though small numbers of people get measles every year and nobody was dying from the illness. Yet, as award-winning journalist Sheryl Attkisson reported, there was no coverage of the 14 deaths and 94 cases of paralysis which arose from a disease that used to be considered polio. As this analysis shows, the mainstream media very much seems to be following a certain playbook here in order to advance a pro-vaccine agenda.
Central Planning and the Vaccine Program
Libertarians have long understood that central planning does not work, both within fully Communistic states and in centralized programs which are embedded within economies that also contain market features. Here I will briefly recap the key findings of the pivotal critics of central planning and then go on to show how these criticisms apply to the vaccine program.
Ludwig von Mises demonstrated that central planning cannot work, because it does not allow for economic calculation. Economic calculation enables businesses to compute profits and losses and in so doing, allows them to determine which goods and services are valued by consumers and are thereby increasing societal wealth. Economic calculation requires private property and a market price system. Absent these elements, it is impossible to determine which goods and services to provide, at what price, in what manner, and in what quantity.
We can see that there are many aspects of the vaccine program which make it impossible to determine (true market-based) profits and losses. First, we see that many of the vaccines are mandated. We can only determine market prices when the potential buyer can voluntarily choose to abstain from purchasing a good or service. Second, as a result of the continuous government and media propaganda, demand for vaccines is artificially inflated. Third, most vaccines are paid for or subsidized by 3rd parties, such as governments or insurance companies, making price discovery difficult. Additionally, the law exempting vaccine suppliers from liability artificially reduces their costs and thereby produces higher profits than would be obtained without this legislative privilege. All of these aspects of the program, and others, make true economic calculation impossible.
According to F.A. Hayek, central planning cannot work since much knowledge is local in nature and cannot be obtained and acted upon by a centralized government. In this regard, we can also see many “knowledge problems” associated with the vaccine program. Which infectious agents should people vaccinate against? For example, should (as is currently the case) the risky Hepatitis B vaccine be given to all newborns, even though only ones who are at risk are those who are sexually active, are IV drug users, or have a mother who is infected (which can be tested for) are at risk? What is the best way to protect against infectious disease in general? Is the answer vaccination or are other measures such as nutrition and herbs the way to go? Would we be better off contracting some of these illnesses naturally and thereby obtaining lifelong immunity and a stronger immune system? How many vaccine doses should we take and at which ages? Should certain individuals or families avoid one or more vaccines since they are more susceptible to vaccine injury than the general population? These questions, and many others, cannot be answered by the central planners.
The Vaccine Program and the Dominance of the State
The above sections covered libertarian objections to the vaccine program, viewed from that narrow perspective. But there are other important repercussions of the program that extend well beyond the administration of vaccines. Political philosophers have long understood that centralization of power is very dangerous to liberty and have tried to come up with ways to mitigate that threat. In the U.S., the founders favored a Bill of Rights and a system of federalism, whereby (at least in theory) there was a separation of powers. Advocates of liberty believe that it is necessary to vest authority within civil society, in order to reduce the dependence upon and the power of the state. Historically, institutions such as the family, the church, and the market have functioned as bulwarks against the totalitarian state. But the vaccine program is doing great harm to the authority of both the family and the church.
Parents are the ones who know their kids the best and care the most about them. They are the ones who should be making medical decisions on behalf of their minor children. Vaccine mandates undermine parental authority and in effect demonstrate that the state owns our children and can and should determine what is best for them. So it should come as no surprise that, in recent years, we have seen a spate of cases which have come to be referred to as “medical kidnapping”. Have a preference for some other type of cancer treatment over chemo for your kid? Sorry. Want to get a second opinion on the doctor’s recommendations for your kids? Not so fast. The bureaucrats and licensed health care workers know best and may take custody of your kids if you resist. While we might be horrified by these developments, we can also see that they are only a logical outgrowth of the vaccine program, whereby the state has asserted the authority to make medical decisions for our kids.
The church, at times, has also been an important source of power and authority independent of the state. It has provided its own schools, its own charitable programs, and its own moral guidance. Yet with the vaccine program, here too we are seeing the neutering of religious authority as the state insists that we bow down to its sacred cow. There are many who believe that vaccination conflicts with their religious beliefs. For some, the fact that there are cells from aborted fetuses in several of the vaccines makes their use immoral. For parents of children who are especially susceptible to severe vaccine injury, forced vaccination is tantamount to state-mandated child abuse. That imposition cannot be compatible with any civilized religion. Up until recently, while there were mandates within all states for kids attending public schools and day care, there were religious exemptions readily available in 48 of the states. With the recent passage of SB277 in California, religious and philosophical exemptions will no longer be available for children seeking to attend day care, public school, or private school. There are also initiatives to remove exemptions at the federal level and to mandate vaccines for adults.
In addition to the weakening of parental and religious authority, the vaccine program serves as a template for forced collectivism of all kinds. The Supreme Court’s earlier decision upholding a vaccine mandate was the legal precedent for the Court’s support for forced sterilization (eugenics). Once people have been convinced that it is OK to force other people to do things for the sake of the collective, the battle for liberty is lost. Give up half of your income for the sake of the herd, why not? Give up your liberties for the sake of whatever the war du jour is? No problem. Vaccine propaganda also promotes an attitude of undeserved loyalty and gratitude to the state, which sets the stage for greater state power. After all, without all of this regimentation and central planning, we might all be dead or afflicted with debilitating diseases, right?
As we have seen, there are many aspects of the government vaccine program which are antithetical to liberty. It violates self-ownership, informed consent, it is crony capitalist to the core, relies upon central planning, and increases state power while simultaneously weakening civil society. It provides important precedents for further violations of liberty. As is the case with other coercive government programs, in the long term it works in ways that run counter to its stated objectives.
Perhaps one day one or more voluntary vaccine programs will arise through the free market and be a great blessing to mankind. But, for now, libertarians must vigorously oppose the government vaccine program, root and branch.