Jail in the time of chickenpox

19 11 2007

Parents who choose not to have their school-aged children vaccinated will be fined and jailed in one Maryland county (Chicago Tribune, 11/17/07; New York Times, 11/18/07). Prince George County Circuit Court has threatened recalcitrant parents with $50 a day fines and maybe jail if they continue to decline the current vaccination combo required by state law. Hepatitis B and chickenpox shots have been added to the vaccine smorgasbord of polio, mumps and measles innoculations.

For a variety of reasons, parents may be wary of a particular vaccine. plan “b” remembers the anguish her parents suffered in the 1950s, when the first polio vaccine, so enthusiastically administered to American school children, was flawed and actually gave some children polio. That problem was corrected in the next generation of the vaccine but in the meantime plan “b’s” parents any many other had the horrific wait of polio’s incubation period to know if they would be responsible for giving their healthy children the crippling disease. plan “b’s” parents had not been threatened with jail if they refused to submit their three children to the vaccine, they had gratefully chosen vaccination for their three children.

Certain vaccines have been some of the success stories of medical science. Still, it happens that some people want to be able to think their medical decisions through, especially if it concerns their children. Stories from Prince George County suggest that most families comply with the state vaccination law and relatively few children in the public school system are not vaccinated. In other words, if a very few children come down with measles or mumps in a vaccinated population can it be said that public safety is at stake?

In the current culture of multi-colored fear levels consumer hysteria is kept in a permanent rampant position. Consumer anxiety is like the lion on an old family crest, reared back on its hind legs, forelegs clawing the air: rampant. plan “b’s” dictionary defines rampant as “marked by a menacing wildness, extravagance, or absence of restraint.” This is a picture of aggressive fear that justifies attacking that which it fears.

We have daily fear instruction on everything from toys – just weeks before Christmas- to just about any food you might want to swallow. As for medical products, though, there’s the occasional recall of a pharmaceutical product but in comparison to the rest it seems infrequent. If we are instructed to trust at all now, it is to believe in the medical industry and nearly all of its product lines.

Some parents in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, showed reluctance to put their children under the multiple needles of the vaccine law and those parents are now threatened by the judiciary and the police. plan “b” cannot remember a time in recent history when medical treatments were enforced by court orders and police.

Punishment for refusal to consume medical products feels new. It is especially provocative in a society that appears to celebrate its exclusion of so many from health care. In Virginia over the week-end hundreds of uninsured Americans lined up in a dark, pre-dawn field to get rudimentary and emergency medical care from an international organization of volunteer doctors and dentists who decided that Americans should no longer be deprived of the kind of basic first aid that people in the “third world” were getting.

plan “b’s” uneasy question today is how much safer will we be made and how safe does this safe feel?




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