Monday, February 09, 2015

Libertarian author notes that measles vaccine may not be as effective as generally thought; does the same "herd immunity" idea transport to the guns and home security debate?


Libertarian author Mary Ruwart (“Healing Our World”, Sunstar), who was based in Charlotte, NC the last time I talked to her (I met her while living in Minneapolis) has raised some questions in the vaccine debate with an email this morning. The email  link to her blog didn’t work (maybe a spurious character), but I got it to come up from the site myself, here.
   
She says that    and points to this editorial about the need for a newer measles vaccine, published by Elsevier and the Edward Jenner Society (I don’t see a date), here.  She says that over half of cases in Canada come from vaccinated individuals.  Some of her comments suggests that those who know they are vulnerable should stay away from public crowds.  But for most people, gradual exposure to normally occurring viruses and bacteria through social interaction helps build adult immunity.  I rarely have severe symptoms from anything as an adult, even if I was sickly as a young boy. That's because of gradually built-up immunity through repeated small exposures. 
      
I had measles in June, 1950, just before my seventh birthday.  We cut short a family trip in Ocean City, MD.  There’s always been a question if some subtle neurological problems (lack of normal coordination) developed as a result.  Should I have a booster at age 71?
  
Most experts still insist that current vaccines are safe and effective. Some claim that a shot gives 95% immunity, which raises to 99% with the second shot. 
  
My own “libertarian” take on the vaccine debate is personal responsibility:  the normally responsible thing is to get vaccinated and not depend on the herd immunity of others.  Where I think this concept really matters is for college students, who, if they are going to live in a dorm, need to get both meningitis vaccines – it’s the Type B, for which the vaccine is newer, that is harder to treat with antibiotics and leads to blood poisoning and amputations sometimes.  So make sure your college gives the vaccines or get them yourself.
   
Of course, this sort of debate transports to other areas, like self-defense and gun ownership.  There is a “herd immunity” effect in neighborhood safety, but the public policy issues around gun registration are, we know, complicated.  Piers Morgan is always pointing out that Australia has had no mass shootings since tightening gun laws in 1996.  But then the kidnapping incident last fall in Sydney by a rogue ISIS sympathizer might not have happened had the shop owner been able to defend himself and the customers. 

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