A real solution to antivax nonsense: higher insurance premiums

By Phil Plait | February 2, 2011 7:00 am

If you have any doubts, I’ll be clear: the antivaccination movement is dangerous. Despite vast amounts of evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism (and a host of other ailments), and the equally vast amount of evidence that vaccination is among the greatest medical achievements in human history, a lot of people have been scared into not vaccinating their kids. This puts their children at risk, as well as children around them: many of the outbreaks of measles, pertussis, and other diseases we’ve seen in the past few years are directly due to low vaccination rates.

What can we do? Some people advocate requiring parents to vaccinate their children. This is in theory a good solution; it would drastically lower outbreaks of preventable and potentially fatal diseases. And it’s not like we have no other laws on how parents must care for their children. Almost every state requires children be in safety seats for cars, for example. And many schools require children be vaccinated before they can attend.

I’ll admit though, that the idea of requiring vaccinations bugs me. I don’t like it when the government forces me to do things for my own good, even when that good is overwhelmingly positive (like, say, seat belt use). I’ll admit this is not a completely rational reaction — more visceral, I’d say — but it’s a good indication that if we did try to pass laws requiring vaccinations, the outcry would be substantial.

But what’s the alternative?

Well, physician Rahul Parikh has an idea: raise insurance premiums for parents who don’t vaccinate their kids:

It’s that fiction and the fear it incites that has challenged and frustrated pediatricians like me for 10 years. I don’t foresee any quick shift in the trend among affluent, highly educated older parents against childhood vaccines. As [vaccine advocate Paul] Offit often points out, it’s much harder to unscare people once they’ve been scared. [Antivaxxer Jenny] McCarthy has it easy. We doctors have to do the hard part.

Refusing to vaccinate a child is dangerous not just for that child but for entire communities. It’s precisely this point a colleague of mine was considering when he had the idea that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids should pay substantially higher health insurance premiums.

I love love love this idea. It makes sense, and follows logically from precedent. If you behave in a non-healthy or risky manner — smoking cigarettes, and so on — you have to pay a higher premium for health insurance. Given that insurance companies might have to pay maybe a few hundred dollars for vaccines, but potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars for health support for kids who are unvaccinated and who infect dozens of others — there is some rational basis for having parents produce proof they have vaccinated their kids before qualifying for a lower premium.

This way, if you don’t want to vaccinate your kid you still have that choice, but it’ll cost you. Of course, there are details to this that need to be hammered out; some kids are allergic to vaccine ingredients, some might have religious reasons not to vaccinate (though I cast a very, very dim eye on that as you might expect), and so on. The point here is that not vaccinating is a choice, and one with potentially very serious consequences. I know that the nonsense the antivax movement peddles can be very persuasive to a newly-minted parent, but I also know most Americans can be very pragmatic when it comes to the bottom line.

I wonder how an idea like this gets traction. I’d love to see some actual research into it, and see how viable such a thing would be.


Syringe pic from ZaldyImg’s Flickr photostream.

Related posts:

Some vax facts
Salon mag pulls dangerous and fallacious antivax article
More on Wakefield’s descent: money, money, money!
I got shot
The Autism Science Foundation

Comments (118)

Links to this Post

  1. Money Talks Where Reason Fails « thinklovesurvive | February 2, 2011
  1. thetentman

    I second that proposal.

  2. CJSF

    The problem I have with this idea is that for many parents, it’s not fundamentally different that just passing a law requiring them to vaccinate. Except for the threat of higher cost to them. The only way you can require higher premiums for non-vaccination is through the law, right? (and if I am not, someone please correct me.) So you’re still using the law to force parents to vaccinate their kids.

    I like the statement “…t’s much harder to unscare people once they’ve been scared.” That is very true, and it probably explains a lot, from vaccinations to climate change and more.

    CJSF

  3. Dennis

    All in favor, say “aye”.

    Aye!

  4. Jeff in Tucson
  5. Jason

    I fully think that this is a fantastic idea, however, that being said it is unfortunately not an option for us Canadians with universal health care. Although I feel like something similar (an extra tax maybe) absolutely should be instated. Our healthcare dollars are being wasted on these kids whose parents refuse to believe in logic and reason.

  6. I’ve been seeing this proposal popping up in a few places over the last couple of months, and while I agree with the principle, I wonder why it has to be phrased as a penalty instead of an incentive?

    Compare “higher premiums for not-vaccinating” to “lower premiums for vaccinating” same idea, but one sounds vindictive.

  7. Michael

    I third this proposal.

  8. Dan I.

    @ 2. CJSF

    I’m not totally up in the area of insurance law, I do criminal law, but I’m not sure you’d actually need a law authorizing this.

    As far as I know there is now “law” authorizing insurance companies to charge higher premiums for smokers for example, they just do it cause it’s logical.

    What you might get is a lawsuit from parents (most likely on religious discrimination grounds if there wasn’t a built in exemption) so you might need a COURT ruling saying “Yes, this is fine, this isn’t discriminatory so long as it’s not based on race, religion etc.” But I don’t think you’d need a law before insurance companies could start doing it (at least in most states).

  9. Scott B

    I know most disagree, but IMO the whole purpose of insurance should be so that we all pay for everyone’s care because there’s a chance any of us could need to use it at any time. Prices shouldn’t be manipulated to motivate people to vaccinate their children or exercise more or live healthier. Personally, I’m happy to pay what I do today to ensure others on the same insurance can choose what they want to do, even if I disagree with them as I do if they don’t vaccinate their children.

  10. amstrad

    My wife is a pediatrician. Her office refuses to accept antivaxxers as patients. Their stance is: if you are unwilling to follow our advice on this issue, what are you doing here?

    In addition, they also refuse patients born via home waterbirth. Same issue, if you’re going to shun best medical practices, then you can find another pediatrician and good luck with that.

  11. CountFloyd

    The ‘aye’s’ are above the ‘no’s’!

  12. amstrad

    Scott B,

    that would be fine if everyone had an equal probability of requiring an insurance payout. That that is not the case. People who live a riskier life style use a larger portion of the insurance pool. Antivaxxers, smokers, motorcycle riders and skydivers all live riskier lifestyles and should pay more.

  13. Jorgen

    What’s your take on the new claim from Finland that Swine Flu vaccinations increase the risk of narcolepsy? I’m already seeing other news stories saying other countries are not seeing this. Real or not, I think that it would be more responsible of the media to not only point out the Finnish results but also tell people what would probably happen if the vaccine had not been used.

  14. Scott B

    @amstrad

    I’m aware of that. I just believe it’s worth me paying more so others have the freedom to make riskier choices.

  15. David

    Hi Phil,

    this idea for a “merit rating” system (bonus malus) is not entirely new. In Europe (at least in Germany) there were and are a lot of discussions going on whether smokers and obese people should pay more for their health insurance. These ideas usually come from the conservative parties (CDU). However, this suggestion doesn’t have many followers… primarily because of the equal rights of every man and woman in a society.

    Consider an opposing scenario:
    What if somebody does do a lot of sports. He might be healthier in the long run, but he/she is far more likely to hurt him/herself in the short run compared to somebody who stays at home. Should every sportsman therefore pay more health insurance?

    Cheers,
    David

    (Long time reader, first blog post)

  16. MartinM

    I’ll admit though, that the idea of requiring vaccinations bugs me. I don’t like it when the government forces me to do things for my own good, even when that good is overwhelmingly positive (like, say, seat belt use).

    As Parikh points out, vaccination is not just for your own good. It’s for the good of those around you too.

  17. Ray

    I’m not cool with raising their rates. If Mommy and Daddy anti-vaxxer have to pay a little extra premium for their delusions, how is that gonna help me when my kid gets sick or dies?

  18. Liam Bradey

    Love it. Will really test their commitment to the anti-vax movement if it hits them in the wallet.

  19. FoxtrotCharlie

    That’s true, there’s a case to be made that non-vaccination endangers everyone. Seat belt use is a precedent for safety. Vaccination should be clear cut but thanks to the likes of McCarthy you’d have huge swaths of people shouting conspiracies. You would have way too much backlash for this to work in our current environment.

  20. John

    Allergy would be a good reason, religion is not as it is your choice. I vote for vaccinations. When I was a child my Father worked in several South American countries and every time we went overseas I got stuck and very sick for several days but only got intestinal parasites while I was there.

  21. Robin S.

    This is a bad idea as it opens the door for what Amstrad seems to favor. We can add to the list of people he thinks should be pay more: bicyclists, people who ride buses (great disease spreading environments), people who don’t wear sunscreen, kids who play school sports, kids who didn’t breast feed, construction workers, people who drive for a living, kids who play outside, farm kids (they’re more likely to have accidents involving farm implements), and anyone else whose behavior, pastimes, lifestyle, or medical history might be deemed sub-optimal by an insurance underwriter. That’s equitable.

    We should only reward people that have very low risk medical history, lifestyles, pastimes, and so on. This is exactly what was done when for a long time I was priced out of medical insurance because of a pre-existing medical condition. Awesome.

    The pediatricians that won’t treat kids whose parents are antivaxxers? Why, they’re right up there with pharmacists that refuse to give out the morning after pill.

  22. Annalee

    I don’t like the idea of affluent families being able to “buy” permission to put the rest of us in danger.

    The public schools I went to had students from a range of socioeconomic classes. It’s nice for the rich family with the health insurance to say their precious little snowflake is too good for vaccines–but it’s going to be poor, un-or under-insured families that are hit hardest when their kid causes an outbreak at the school.

    If a parent loses their job because they had to call out sick to take their kid to the ER, or goes into bankruptcy because they made sure the doctors tried everything to keep their beautiful baby from dying gasping for air, it isn’t much consolation to them that the family who killed or maimed their child pays higher premiums.

  23. Peter Davey

    Could we be said to have the germ of an idea here?

  24. Aadam Aziz Ansari

    Health insurance actuary here.

    Being un-vaccinated would most likely be classified as a pre-existing condition, or simply a health condition if currently covered by insurance. Therefore, as a result of US health care reform, you will be unable to charge higher premiums for these members in the individual market starting in 2014. This means that if they don’t get their health insurance through their or their spouse’s job, but instead buy it on their own, it will be illegal to charge anti-vaxxers more.

    On the group side (ie insurance provided by your or your spouse’s employer), it will still be possible to rate according to health condition, and therefore vaccination status. However, for group health insurance, you are not allowed to vary what premiums you charge except by age, gender, and family size*. This also implies that all employee health costs are pooled together and distributed across the entire employment pool. So not only would you not be able to charge anti-vaxxers more, but we are forced to subsidize their increased medical costs, as alluded to above.

    Anyway, implementing this would require carving out a special exception in both HCR and current group health law that applies only to non-vaccinaters, which to call a non-starter would be an understatement.

    *There are other factors that come into play, such as your employer subsidizing a portion of the premium, which gives more leeway on this. Restrictions also vary by state. However, in no case can the premium vary by health status.

  25. The sales literature writes itself…

    “…but that’s just our basic service, where you have to inflict jabs on your kids. For only £xxxx/year extra, we’ll look after them even if they catch measles. Even if they catch rubella. Even mumps*. And there’s more! You don’t even have to vaccinate them. Yes, all for an astoundingly good value $xxxx/year! Sign now and we’ll throw in microscopically-reduced co-pays!”

    *Autism not covered.

  26. RobertC

    No religious exemptions. Vaccine or tax….

  27. Steve

    A law to require Insurance Companies to raise rates? A license to steal, if you ask me, based on their history of abuse… how many times have we heard that someone’s cancer treatment went unpaid because the insurance carrier didn’t get a check on time (but that same check cleared the bank speedily, of course).
    I’m all for requiring vax. Here in TX, there are laws on the books requiring proof of vax before kids enter school, but no one enforces them any more. So why add another law that most folks will ignore anyway?

  28. Román

    Ok, maybe I live in a totalitarian country (Argentina, so I don’t think so) but when I read quotes like this one:

    I’ll admit though, that the idea of requiring vaccinations bugs me. I don’t like it when the government forces me to do things for my own good

    coming even from smart people I feel like screaming “WTF is wrong with you!”.

    Up here, vaccination is mandatory. Not only that, if you can’t take your kid to get her/his since you don’t have time or whatever (money it’s not a problem, vaccines are free), you shouldn’t worry, there will be a vaccination day at his/her school. Nobody would DREAM of calling this “the government forcing me to do things”. It’s so natural that, as I said, reading someone question it feels incredibly wrong.

  29. Dr D

    As a physician in a community with a recent pertussis outbreak-I have a modest proposal. The insurance idea is great, but ll kids who are not vaccinated should be home schooled.This would stop the nonsense in its tracks for a large number of kids.
    But it speaks to the level of science education in America. Education is half my work. The Huffington post, and Oprah are not helping-and I’m a liberal.Well a moderate liberal..

  30. Luis

    Phil said:

    I don’t like it when the government forces me to do things for my own good, even when that good is overwhelmingly positive (like, say, seat belt use). I’ll admit this is not a completely rational reaction — more visceral, I’d say

    Well, at least you admit that it is an irrational reaction. Arguably, this kind of rejection might partially follow from the phrasing “the government forces parents to vaccinate their children”. A more accurate, if lengthier, way of describing the situation would be: “one of the functions of government is to safeguard public health; physicians unanimously agree that universal vaccination is a crucial factor in preventing a dangerous spread of contagious diseases; therefore, following both the advice of physicians and its social responsibility, the government must ensure that universal vaccination is achieved”. Does it sound more palatable for you now?

  31. Eric

    Vaccination should be required by law. Just like seat belts, we all give up a little freedom for a well-proven benefit to the community as a whole. As a soon-to-be father in a red state with (I suspect) a high rate of anti-vaxxers, this makes me nervous.

    @amstrad,

    I heartily agree with your wife that she doesn’t have to accept patients who refuse to follow medical advice. But, I think it’s very closed-minded and lacking in evidence for her to use that as justification to deny water-birth babies.

    I would love to see evidence showing that a properly done water birth has any higher risk to mother or baby. A proper birth would be under the supervision of an experienced midwife with the proper training and equipment to handle complications. The mother will also have been evaluated throughout pregnancy and referred to an OB if any risky conditions come up. Of course a home birth without proper preparation is stupid and should be regarded as such.

    Hospital births have much higher rates of medical intervention than other sites (birth center, home birth, etc), a lot of which tend to be precautionary (defensive medicine) and tend to raise the risks to mother and baby. This is a little OT so I’ll just leave it at that.

    A quick Google search turned up this study:
    http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/181/6-7/377
    which found that planned home births have similar or better rates of infant mortality and reduced rates of medical intervention.

    I know your wife means well, but more medicine is not necessarily better medicine. If we save the medical intervention for the cases when its really needed, patients benefit and costs are lower for everyone.

  32. Nick

    It’s not just for their children’s good that the government should absolutely mandate vaccinations; it’s for my children’s good. Liberatarians would claim that they are opposed to regulating against anything that does not pick their pocket or break their leg; not vaccinating your child does both, and the latter is far more important. Vaccines are not 100% effective, and no one should be allowed to risk my (properly-vaccinated) child’s life with their irresponsible behavior. The law should reflect this, and treat those who fail in this basic responsibility of parenting as the dangers to the health and well-being of not just their own child, but all children.

  33. Using insurance as an incentive is a great idea. However, I would suggest combining it with accountability/liability (see: http://contusio-cordis.blogspot.com/2010/11/freedom-of-speech-clarification.html ). In short, if non-vaccinating causes others to develop an infectious disease (see rise of whooping cough, measles, et cetera the past decade), and a link can be established with that choise, you will be liable (criminally, economically). The details I leave to those with better knowledge of the law.

  34. Scott B

    @Luis:

    “one of the functions of government is to safeguard public health”

    I don’t believe this should be one of the functions of government at an individual level. I agree that businesses need to be regulated so their actions don’t increase peoples’ health risks, but don’t think the government should be taking steps to ensure individuals live in the most healthy ways. Going there is one of the slipperier slopes we could go down.

  35. Katy Pluta

    How about lowering premiums for vaccinated kids instead? Why give more to the insurance companies? Rewards are always better than higher premiums ;-)

  36. @amstrad (#11), I wish more doctor’s officer were like your wife’s! :)

    I recall that one of the “patient zero” individuals for a measels outbreak in CA was a patient of anti-vac pro-disease nutter Dr. Bob. That alone should be a reason to vote a hearty AYE on this proposal.

    And just because I can, http://factsnotfantasy.com/vaccines.php for arguments agains the anti-vax pro-disease douchebaggery.

  37. amstrad

    @Robin

    What’s the difference between “reward people that have very low risk” and penalizing people with higher risk?

    My wife works in private practice, not the county ER or the health department. Private doctors choose their patients just as much as you get to choose your doctor, and antivaxxers represent additional time and cost. It really is a tough call since it’s not the kids fault, but then there are lots of things the kids get screwed for because their parents are stupid. I would love to get Child Protective Services involved for parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids. It really is a form of child abuse in the same way that praying for your sick child instead of seeking medical care is negligent child abuse.

  38. Randy A.

    Scott B:

    There is a difference between public health (helps society) and personal health (helps the individual).

    I agree with you that the government should stay out of personal health decisions. So if I want to exercise, and risk injury, it’s my choice. If I want to be a couch potato, and risk heart disease, it’s still my decision.

    But as Phil and many others have pointed out, vaccination is a public health measure. We (Americans) need herd immunity to protect all of us from disease.

  39. Father Tyme

    Rights of others or a slippery slope?

    A fine for the ‘possibility’ of getting sick? A fine for causing sickness in others? Where do we stop?
    If I don’t take care of my kids (according to the way others feel kids should be treated – God forbid you discipline, holler at them or reprimand them in public), my vigilante neighbor or stranger at Wal-Mart will turn me in and I’ll already get fined or jailed (unless I’m well-off…and white).
    We already pay hefty “fines” for car insurance in case some driver in East Kabumfuk gets drunk and kills someone there. So I, in West Kabumfuk, have to pay higher insurance costs so the insurance company doesn’t lose any of “their” money because that yahoo decided, on his own, to get drunk.
    My home fire insurance rates have gone up every year, albeit a small amount partly because of the fires others have and the insurance companies cover their damage. So who pays for that coverage? Me and you. Not the company. They charge the rest of us more so they don’t lose money.

    Should people who live in areas along the coasts where hurricaines can cause billions in damages or those who live in the Midwest with their tornadoes be required to move or pay hefty fines if they knowingly continue to live in a place where they are in danger?

    Why don’t we hike the hell out of insurance rates on those people who live in the “fire plains” of Southern California who DON’T have fire retardant or fireproof shingles on their roof? Studies there, also, have shown fire resistant shingles can save homes during wildfires. But to some, those shingles aren’t esthetically pleasing! Do we fine them? Now we should fine them because they want to build their homes they way they want…and the code allows it? Change the code first.

    Or those in the icy north who know they shouldn’t go to movie some night because the weather is not that bad now but gets worse and they have an accident (their fault)? Do we fine them because they should have stayed home?

    Shall we fine people who knowingly choose (or not) to live in flood prone areas becasue the potential for devastation is there, also?

    Do we fine someone who gets sick (through the action of other sick people) who goes to work and infects others? I don’t know about you but if I report off sick I don’t get paid for the day. Maybe you get paid and can stay home to prevent others from sharing your misery or you are financially solvent enough to not worry about a day’s pay and that’s just swell but I am not that fortunate. So I lose money either way – from your inane fine because I got sick, went to work so I don’t lose a day (or more’s) wages or whatever you decide I should shell out as a penalty to infect my co workers, or stay home and lose wages. Nice choice for me. Maybe we should all wear masks – everywhere – all the time?

    You’re starting a very slippery slope here. And that’s not even taking into account the greed of the health care companies who would see this as a boon to their bottom lines (who will get the fees for the fines? The government? R&D Medical (owned by most health care companies)? The co-workers of the sick?

    Until we all get decent, affordable health care, fining everyone for just what YOU (a public generality) think is nasty to you seems a bit – dictatorial. So I want you to do all the things necessary to make sure nothing happens to me because of you . Nice thoughts. Won’t happen. We all need to use common sense, but…that won’t happen, either.

    Where do you stop?

    @Robin S – yep! You betcha!

  40. Sir Eccles

    You know what would be nice, if insurance companies just paid for vaccinations without fuss.

    The number of times I have been in a grocery store where they have set up a flu shot table and I think what the hell only for the nurse to look at my card, suck in air and say “I’m not sure that company covers flu shots”.

  41. CaioBella

    Following this line of thought, everyone who eats meat and dairy products must also pay a higher insurance premium. Those are the people causing my rates to sky rocket… obesity, heart disease, cancers. Or perhaps anyone who eats at McDonalds. Or anyone that stands in the sun for too long. Or anyone that gets past a certain age.

    I am all for vaccinating if the controversial ingredients were taken out such as aluminum, formaldehyde, cow’s blood, chicken embryos and human blood. Until that happens it is my choice whether I vaccinate myself or my kids and I will let all the blind followers out there provide community immunity.

  42. This might work -if all the anti-vaccine people are affluent and buy health insurance. My kids were vaccinated under the CHIP plan, but I am self-employed and don’t have any insurance.

    If we had single-payer universal health care, smokers would be charged more by paying cigarette tax. Isn’t that what it is for? However, it’s harder to tax a negative like not getting vaccines.

  43. OtherRob

    @Scott B, #16

    I’m aware of that. I just believe it’s worth me paying more so others have the freedom to make riskier choices.

    I am a big fan of freedom and letting people make their own choices, even choices that hurt themselves. But I don’t believe that you or I should have to fund these choices.

    I’m actually on the fence about requiring vaccinations. I understand the risks that come with not vaccinating, particularly the risks to others. But as someone with a fairly strong libertarian streak — and more importantly, as a parent — I am very resistant to the idea of the government telling me how to raise my kids. (FWIW, my kids are current on their vaccinations and will continue to get them.)

  44. Miss Cellannia (41): In fact I thought of that when I was writing this post. In the US a lot of outbreaks are occurring in affluent areas (like Marin county in California). But that means they can afford higher rates, so the disincentive to not vaccinate is less (I know, that grammar is hard to navigate). That’s why I said that this needs to be studied carefully. It’s an interesting idea, but the devil’s in the details…

  45. Paul in Sweden

    Proof of vaccination should be the norm, the schools I attended as a child required it. It surprises me that insurance companies do not already require vaccination & premiums for the un-vaccinated.

    Forcing someone to vaccinate does seem counter to our ideals of freedom but an anti-vaxxer’s freedom shouldn’t interfere with the rest of the community’s freedom and pursuit of happiness by pulling a Typhoid Mary.

    Related:

    Why the ‘Prius Driving, Composting’ Set Fears Vaccines
    -http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/01/why-the-prius-driving-composting.html
    31 January 2011, 11:22 AM

    Journalist Seth Mnookin’s new book, The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear, explores the public health scare over vaccines and autism. The 1998 paper in The Lancet by British physician Andrew Wakefield that sparked the panic has long since been debunked and retracted, and Wakefield himself has been barred from practicing medicine and accused of fraud. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of people from refusing to vaccinate their children out of fear that they could become autistic.

    Mnookin warns of grave consequences. Recent outbreaks of measles, whooping cough, and other preventable infections have sickened thousands of children and killed more than a dozen in the United States. Vaccine rates are falling below the level needed to prevent an outbreak in a growing number of communities, including ones with wealthy, educated populations.

    Last week, Mnookin spoke with ScienceInsider about why.

    Q: There’s a perception that vaccine refusal is especially common among affluent, well-educated, politically liberal parents—is there any truth to that?

    S.M.: It’s dangerous to make broad generalizations about a group, but anecdotally and from the overall data that’s been collected it seems to be people who are very actively involved in every possible decision regarding their children’s lives. I think it relates to a desire to take uncertainty out of the equation. And autism represents such an unknown. We still don’t know what causes it and we still don’t have good answers for how to treat it. So I think that fear really resonates.

    Also I think there’s a fair amount of entitlement. Not vaccinating your child is basically saying I deserve to rely on the herd immunity that exists in a population. At the most basic level it’s saying I believe vaccines are potentially harmful, and I want other people to vaccinate so I don’t have to. And for people to hide under this and say, “Oh, it’s just a personal decision,” it’s being dishonest. It’s a personal decision in the way drunk driving is a personal decision. It has the potential to affect everyone around you.

    Q: But why liberals?

    S.M.: I think it taps into the organic natural movement in a lot of ways.

    I talked to a public health official and asked him what’s the best way to anticipate where there might be higher than normal rates of vaccine noncompliance, and he said take a map and put a pin wherever there’s a Whole Foods. I sort of laughed, and he said, “No, really, I’m not joking.” It’s those communities with the Prius driving, composting, organic food-eating people.

  46. Eric

    @#40 Father Tyme, Have you ever bought insurance ? We do most of that stuff already. Folks who live on the coast prone to hurricanes do pay higher insurance costs. Folks who live in flood plains have to buy flood insurance to get the mortgage. Last time I bought insurance I got discounts for having fire alarms, extinguishers, etc. My life insurance interview had all kinds of questions about racing cars, drinking, drugs, sky diving, and more. Car insurance is based on the type of car you have and your driving record. Insurance companies already fine (charge) people more for riskier living arrangements.

  47. Rick

    On the one hand I like the idea, but as with many great ideas the implementation would be difficult and it is one more thing that the insurance companies could hold over peoples heads when they do get sick. Would they only charge the higher premium for people who refuse all vaccinations? What about a child who gets an illness before they receive a vaccine (not antivaxers, just hadn’t got around to it yet)? On a personal example, my daughter had bacterial meningitis when she was one. She had not had the vaccine yet, but even if she had it would not have helped because it was not caused by the same bacteria as the vaccine works for (turns out she is missing a spleen is why she got it). But, with your idea I bet insurance could simply say “chart says bacterial meningitis, she didn’t get the vaccine, thus it’s a pre-existing condition and won’t be covered (or will be covered to a lesser extent)”.

    Don’t get me wrong…. I want to like your idea and wish everyone would vaccinate. I’m just trying to show how it’d be difficult to implement and like many things, loopholes could be exploited.

  48. Around here we have a saying, “Good idea, bad plan”. I was intrigued with Dr. Parikh’s suggestion — but then started thinking how hard it would be to implement.

    Better yet would be:

    1. Tightening up “Personal Belief Exemptions” (PBE). Dr. Parikh practices in California; the CA standard for getting a PBE is shockingly lax — all you have to do is tick a set of boxes on a preprinted form, sign it, and submit it.

    2. Support for pediatric/family practice physicians to refuse to accept non-vaccinating / selective, delayed vaccinating parents.

    3. Much better outreach to families who are expecting — teaching about safety and efficacy of vaccines during the prenatal period.

    Paul Offit’s new book Deadly Choices has a chapter just on the fallacies of “Dr. Bob’s” vaccination schedule.

  49. thetentman

    Has anyone studied Autism rates in children who did not recieve vaccinations? It seems that they should be identical to those who did. And I think if they were proven to be the same that it would take the argument away from the anti-vaxxers. Unless…….

  50. davem

    Hey, why not do it the American way? Sue the bastards. If your child gets sick from measles, say, bring an action against everyone in his/her school who hasn’t vaccinated. You don’t need to raise insurance rates – the health companies wouldn’t touch parents without vaccination certificates.

  51. amstrad

    @Eric 33

    Re: water birth
    I think you missed the point. It’s not about there being anything risky about the home water birth (of which I’m sure it is, since there is no OB or Pediatrician present or advanced medical equipment in case of dire circumstances). Being an MD a doctor is committed to evidence based medical science. There is no evidence that home water birth is more benificial than a hospital birth and is therefore considered alternative medicine. The paper you linked to is a good start, but the sample sizes are far too small to gain any meaningful statistics. You will not find an MD that will advise this alternative medical procedure and people who insist on this practice are going against medical advice.

  52. Ron1

    Jeez. What a difference 40 years make.

    When I was a kid, we didn’t have a choice and our parents were fine that we were participating in a mandatory public program. 40 years before that, kids were dying or were being severely crippled from some of the diseases for which we were receiving shots. As a society we were thankful. Our parents, who were themselves children during the period when kids were dying, intimately knew the benefit of vaccinations and they wanted us to be protected — and we were.

    So, what has changed? Is it because parents today haven’t had the opportunity to watch their children, or their neighbours’ children die from, oh, say, measles? Is it because they don’t personally know anyone’s child living in a heart-lung machine? It’s probably not because they’re stupid, I know a quite a few anti-vaxers that are well educated professionals. Neither is it political — I know conservatives that vaccinate their kids and I know progressives who will not. Strangely enough, it’s new age progressives that, in my world, are the more outspoken anti-vaxers — they’re highly educated and should know better.

    As far as the idea of higher fees for anti-vaxers, in theory it might work. In reality, it will become politicized and then the media wingnuts (to be fair, let’s say Huffington Post and Fox News) and the interwebs community will drive the proposal into an emotional feeding frenzy about everything except the need to protect children.

    To quote Phil, “THE STUPID, IT BURNS.”

  53. Greg in Austin

    There is a difference between the government requiring drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts and the government requiring everyone to be vaccinated:

    I can choose to no longer drive or ride in a car. I cannot choose to no longer be vaccinated.

    The change in insurance rates is a growing trend. The company I work for gives a discount on insurance premiums for those that live healthy lifestyles (non-smokers, non-drug users, those who are active, with low BMIs, etc.) Essentially, we can choose to be lazy and eat more food than we need, but we’ll pay more for it.

    8)

  54. @thetentman (#51): Yes, they have been studied (mainly in Japan and Denmark due to the ethics and difficulties in making control groups), and the rates are the same. But don’t confuse the anti-vax pro-disease nutters with facts. They don’t like them.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/mmr_trans.shtml

    In Denmark, every child is given a unique social security number on the day they are born. This number is used to record every medical event in their history so researchers pulled out the data for every child in Denmark born between 1991 and 1998, more than half a million children.

    Although the majority of Danish children do receive the vaccine, there were almost one hundred thousand children who hadn’t, so scientists could compare the rate of autism in those two groups. And they found that the rate was the same, whether they’d had MMR or not.
    DR LIZ MILLER: There was no difference. In fact, there was a slightly higher risk in the unvaccinated group. It wasn’t statistically significant but there was absolutely no evidence of an increased risk in those that had been vaccinated.

    NARRATOR: Opponents of MMR have claimed that there might be flaws in the Danish analysis but there have been more than a dozen epidemiological studies using different methods in different countries, and overwhelmingly they have found no link between MMR and autism. To the scientific world, the statistics confirmed that MMR is safe.

  55. Eric

    @amstrad,

    This is OT, so I’ll keep it short.

    I am well aware that you will not find an MD who would advise a mother to have a home birth instead of a hospital birth, and in my opinion that is part of the problem. I think part of that is institutional bias, part inertia, and part they’d get sued in a split second if something went awry.

    The point is that you don’t always need a hospital setting to give birth, women have been doing it naturally since the beginning of time. Of course, the mortality rate used to be something like 25% and now it’s a fraction of 1%, for which we have modern medicine to thank. But there is a lot of room in which doctors, nurses, and midwives could work together to screen women so they can be given a minimum level of intervention appropriate to their risk level. A large fraction of births are low-risk and don’t need an OB in attendance, a nurse-midwife can give the care required more effectively and at lower cost. Midwives are equipped with the training and equipment to deal with most complications on their own, and are also trained to be proactive and transfer their patient to a doctor’s care when needed.

    I agree with you, in my mind the best scenario would be for all births to be at a hospital where higher levels of care are close at hand. But, the vast majority of hospitals don’t allow those sort of minimal-intervention births (mainly due to risk of lawsuit), so people who want that sort of care are driven into the semi-underground home-birth setting.

    The “best standard of care” is not necessarily the highest intensity of care. Doctors should cooperate with patients and midwives to help them get the best of both worlds, rather than making it an “us or them” scenario.

  56. Azkyroth

    Personally, I’m happy to pay what I do today to ensure others on the same insurance can choose what they want to do, even if I disagree with them as I do if they don’t vaccinate their children.

    Aside from the tiny point that treating choices, like vaccinating vs. not vaccinating, that endanger people who aren’t the ones making the choice, as if they were no different than choosing strawberry ice cream instead of chocolate for oneself is INSANE.

  57. thetentman

    @Larian LeQuella – Thank you. Take that Jenny McNutbag.

  58. Floyd

    Ron1 has it right. When I was a kid in the 50s, you could not go to _any_ school (first grade to college) until you were vaccinated–all of the vaccines. There was _no_ choice, because polio was still around (one of the kids in my school got polio before the polio vaccine was available), and people were educated by their family doctors.

    I got the then new mumps shots before I could go to college.

    I got all the vaccines again (plus some for other countries) when I went into the US Army in 1971, just because there was a risk for some foreign diseases.

  59. Chris

    I think it is a flight of fancy to think that a higher insurance rate would change anything. As pointed out in many of the responses, a large part of the group that decides not to vaccinate are already “well-educated” and “affluent”. Raising the insurance rates for them will do zero bit of good.
    Those that have to pay more would pay it, and as pointed out above, now they would have bought and paid for that sense of entitlement. Great.
    Relying on an insurance company to somehow make things better is about the worst idea I can think of. They are interested in 1 thing: Profit. That’s it. Their chosen area to collect money is health care, but that is irrelevent to the bottom line. If they aren’t restricted by law (and it looks like they might well be), they will-of course-take ANY opportunity to raise rates. That is more profit.
    Most importantly, the issues with anti-vaxxers paying more, or insurance companies being involved in this-or not-is all beside the point. It doesn’t address the problem at all. People who don’t vaccinate their children endanger their communities.
    Education doesn’t work. For every Paul Offit, there are 3 Jenny McCarthys. And their legions of “fans”. The statement about it being much harder to unscare people is very accurate. These people see the news. They have read the stories about anti-vax information being false, misleading and dangerous. And you know what? it fuels their fire. Having an opinion that flies in the face of fact and being criticized for it is exactly the same as being oppressed for these people. And they would rather fight that “oppression” than simply change their minds and admit they were wrong, or even just misled. No, education will not change these people’s behavior. Can’t stop it, because the people who truly DON’T know (new mothers, immigrants, etc) desparately NEED that information. But don’t expect it to change the anti-vax faithful.
    The only thing that will work-guaranteed-is a law requiring vaccination. The seatbelt argument is perfect. Don’t like it? tough. Some laws are like that. When we cast off laws to keep us safe (see banking deregulation), we end up with problems.

  60. The Beer

    @amstrad:

    I can appreciate a Dr refusing a patient because the Dr is being asked to perform something that they are not practiced in AND they fell only brings additional risk. If your wife doesn’t feel comfortable (though I’m sure she is qualified) to do a water birth, then it would be irresponsible for her to do such. I think it comes down to the “Do no harm” oath.

    The downside is that I am not a fan of Drs refusing patients simply because they don’t agree. I agree with your wifes opinion but, like the discussion about laws against anti-vaxxers, where do you draw the line?? For a Dr to treat a patient without vaccines is not doing harm, its treating someone who is ignorant. But this isn’t a simple issue so I won’t pretend your wife has easy choices!

    This also reflects what Robin S. stated about morning after pills. There are usually 2 edges to the swords!

  61. Snowshoe the Canuck

    I was born just aftet the 1950’s polio outbreak. Apparently, it was a scarey time for parents. After the death of my mom I had the sad job of going through her effects. I found my vaccination records, every single time my brothers and I were vaccinated she got a record. Amazing. We couldn’t get into Grade 1 in Canada without proving we had the required vaccinations.

  62. MartinM

    The pediatricians that won’t treat kids whose parents are antivaxxers? Why, they’re right up there with pharmacists that refuse to give out the morning after pill.

    Right, because women who take the morning after pill pose an identifiable risk to the pharmacist’s other customers.

  63. Gjeff

    Dr. Leila Denmark was a member of the team that invented the Pertussis vaccine. She turned 113 yesterday and is now the 11th oldest person in the world (documented). Congratulations to her! She only quit working at 103.

  64. MartinM

    I am all for vaccinating if the controversial ingredients were taken out such as aluminum, formaldehyde, cow’s blood, chicken embryos and human blood.

    Aluminium plays an important part in the action of many vaccines. Formaldehyde is a natural byproduct of your body’s metabolism, and the amounts in vaccines are small compared to those already in your bloodstream. The other ‘ingredients’ you list aren’t ingredients at all, but rather are used during the production of some vaccines.

    Until that happens it is my choice whether I vaccinate myself or my kids and I will let all the blind followers out there provide community immunity.

    Well, it’s nice of you to openly admit that you’re too selfish to do your part, at least.

  65. Ron1

    @60 Floyd & @62 Snowshoe the Canuck

    Great comments and Snowshoe, you are so, so right. Not too long ago I was talking to my wife’s parents about that time period – they’re now in their 80’s. They were SCARED, if not terrified during the polio outbreak. Our generation is so lucky that they protected us.

  66. Samsam von Virginia

    Devil’s Advocate here.

    Suppose we discover in 10 years that there IS a problem with one of the legally mandated vaccinations. Do the folks that would have rejected the vaccine (had it been legally allowed) get compensated?

    Science progresses towards Truth, but often takes detours along the way due to greed, politics, etc.

    Samsam von Virginia

  67. lpt

    I’m all for vaccinations. Leaving your child without the vaccination for meningitis, polio, measles, tetanus and others is outright mad. I’m from Finland, and while it is possible to not vaccinate your kids here, it is very uncommon . However, i wish to add my two cents about this narcolepsy and swineflu case that is happening in Finland now. At least one comment here already referred to it. This is not actually limited in Finland, but also Sweden.

    There is very strong evidence right now here, that in fact the swineflu vaccination has indeed increased the likelihood of narcolepsy in Finland and Sweden. In Finland, children who had the vaccination had about 10 times higher risk to get narcolepsy compared to children not vaccinated. It is hard to say how important this vaccination was, but research says was that swineflu was hardly any worse than any of the other seasonal flus, at least in Finland. But as this problem is limited to Finland and Sweden, even though the same vaccination has been used all around the world shows that the vaccination was possibly one of many things contributing to it. It could not have been alone responsible for narcolepsy, but taken together with something else, at the moment unknown cause(diet, chemicals, genes?). This calls for a thorough investigation.

    But as I said, not vaccinating your children is very uncommon here as people generally listen to our government as was case with the swineflu also when they recommended to get it. But the swineflu vaccination was NOT PROPERLY ENOUGH tested from every possible aspect due to time limitations. This was more of a case of panic decision; media screaming swineflu dangers and people demanding solution from our government. The decision was rushed without complete enough research beforehand and this is the result.What this case in my opinion shows is that, while vaccinations are important, WE NEED PROPER RESEARCH for them. These kind of panic vaccinations should not happen, they just give more support for anti-vax movement. I can only speak for Finland in this case though.

  68. Unaspammer

    The problem with this is that many of the anti-vaxxers are genuinely terrified of vaccines. Just look at CaioBella’s post at #43 for an example of the scare tactics that get pushed, and that doesn’t even get into the autism fears. As such, I doubt that higher premiums would motivate anti-vaxxers to vaccinate. More likely, they would either pay the higher premium, or if they couldn’t afford it, they would just go uninsured. Either way, nothing changes, except that the health care for the latter group has gotten worse. Mandatory health insurance beginning in 2014 might help, but as #26 points out, the same bill also will make this whole “solution” illegal in the first place.

  69. Ron1

    @67 Unaspammer

    Even though universal health care is available in Canada, the anti-vax movement is alive and thriving. Given that, I’m not sure it overall matters what type of health system you have — those who are afraid to vaccinate will not vaccinate. Neither will education work — most anti-vaxers believe too deeply.

    Therefore, what about mandatory, publicly funded vaccination as was done in the 50’s and 60’s ?

  70. I’ll admit though, that the idea of requiring vaccinations bugs me. I don’t like it when the government forces me to do things for my own good, even when that good is overwhelmingly positive (like, say, seat belt use).

    I think vaccinations absolutely should be required by law. Children should not suffer and die because their parents are too stupid/deluded to vaccinate them. Not vaccinating your child borders on abuse, and at the very least should count as negligence. Plus, as others have said, they will become potential breeding grounds for disease, endangering others who for legitimate reasons are still at risk (babies too young to have been vaccinated, people who were vaccinated but where the vaccine isn’t 100% effective, etc.).

  71. Happy Camper

    Playing the devils advocate. How about loosing the tax deductions for your children if they are over six months behind schedule on their vaccinations and don’t have a legitimate reason for not having them.

    Just stirring the pot!

  72. Father Tyme

    @48 Eric,
    I lived on the West Coast for quite a while and paid very little less for the same coverage fire and home owners insurance in a risk area then as I do now in another state without the same risks.
    I, too, got discounts for all the possible safety features you can get. It pays to try to get what you can.
    As far as car insurance goes, it may depend on what state and what company and more importantly today, your credit rating. A friend and I have been driving for over 40 years. He had problems with credit and a bankruptcy a number of years ago, but has since gotten his life together. We both have the same insurance company, cars only a year apart in age and similarity, the same number in the family, both own homes, both spouses drive and neither has ever had an accident. Yet he pays 2 and one half times as much for the same coverage as I.
    In this state at least (Pa.) your driving record means nothing as does, for the most part, the type of car. The biggest impediment to reasonable insurance here is credit rating. That from an agent friend who has been writing policies for 30 years.
    Sadly, most insurance companies in Pa. that now write other kinds of insurance may tell you one thing but they all put your credit rating as the number one factor to set your premiums.
    I’d love to hear from some who lost a home in Southern Ca. to wildfires especially if they had wood shingled roofs. A relative lost his quarter million dollar home in one back in the early 90s, had it replaced by the insurance company and his premium went up less than one half percent. He thanked me for helping pay for his rebuild (by my rates increasing yearly).
    Vaccination, good health habits are a great idea. But when you have done everything you can to make yourself as healthy as possible; when you have installed fire extinguishers, alarms and even a sprinkler system (and they will be mandatory here in Pa. homes very soon); when you have done everything possible so that there is NOTHING more you can do, if you have the notion that insurance will go down or even stay the same for you because you did all those things, you don’t understand the greed of these companies. And all the fines or incentives in the world won’t do people who have income problems any good. Make a great living and your employer pays your health care, that’s fine. Otherwise, we’re getting screwed by adding financial requirements to everything else we do.

  73. BreadFred

    My pets must be vaccinated every year otherwise their insurance is invalidated. I do not see why the same principle should not apply to people. This of course with the necessary exclusions for people who have medical problems that prevent them from having said vaccinations.

    Insurance companies could even offer them for free as part of the deal, as it will save THEM money in the long run.

  74. Joseph G

    As someone who can’t afford health insurance due to pre-existing congenital conditions (which don’t actually need treatment or cost anything, go figure) and who is thousands of dollars in the hole because of this, I’m probably not the most unbiased person here. But as far as I’m concerned, any excuse for insurance companies to raise rates is a Bad Thing.
    As important as vaccination is, I think an even larger problem in the US is healthcare availability, period. Any measures that don’t improve on that problem are counterproductive, IMHO.

  75. Joseph G

    @ Paul in Sweden: That’s scary. I’m within about 3 miles of 3 Whole Foods (and a bunch of other health food stores as well). I live in hippie-central.
    Hey, viruses and bacteria are All Natural™! Grown in fresh human hosts with no pesticides or preservatives. Yum!

    Anyway, to take the pro side of the argument, I’d argue that government intervention in vaccination is worlds away from the government deciding what food you eat, or even if you smoke or do other unhealthy stuff, because this has the potential to affect your entire community.
    As someone else aptly pointed out, “vaccination is about personal choice in the same way that driving drunk is.”

  76. Scott B

    @Azkyroth

    “Aside from the tiny point that treating choices, like vaccinating vs. not vaccinating, that endanger people who aren’t the ones making the choice, as if they were no different than choosing strawberry ice cream instead of chocolate for oneself is INSANE.”

    I think it’s insane for people to not only expect, but to try to use government or insurance companies to force others to take a certain vaccine or medicine so that they can be less likely to get sick. Where is the line supposed to be drawn here?

  77. MartyM

    My health insurance through my employer will charge me a hefty premium increase if I don’t get an annual physical. I don’t mind. A fellow employee discovered a potential heart risk and began preventative measures before suffering a heart attack.

    My mom has a medical history and about the only insurance she can get is crappy at best and quite expensive. Insurance companies categorize her as high-risk and she pays for it. Though it is not due to choice, a risky lifestyle, or fast cars. And I do have a problem with a high risk assessment in cases like hers.

    However, if they want to chose to wager on the risk of not vaccinating, let them pay more .

  78. MartinM

    I think it’s insane for people to not only expect, but to try to use government or insurance companies to force others to take a certain vaccine or medicine so that they can be less likely to get sick. Where is the line supposed to be drawn here?

    Same place the line always gets drawn when personal freedoms encroach on the safety of others; somewhere between your fist and my nose. It’s not like this is a unique, never-before-addressed problem.

  79. Zyggy

    Awesome idea.

    Aye….very aye.

    Zyg

  80. OtherRob

    @Scott B, #78

    I think it’s insane for people to not only expect, but to try to use government or insurance companies to force others to take a certain vaccine or medicine so that they can be less likely to get sick. Where is the line supposed to be drawn here?

    I think it’s insane for people to not only expect, but to try to use government or insurance companies to force others to not drive drunk so they can be less likely to get in an accident. Where is the line supposed to be drawn here?

  81. I looked through the comments, and I didn’t see anyone post this, but I may have missed it. If so, I apologize for duplicating.

    I am not a fan of this idea–like, not at all at all–and my reasons have nothing to do with “rights” or “liberty”, which are not consistently interpreted and fairly vague.

    It’s true, those who are unvaccinated carry a higher risk for becoming ill, which is why it’s tempting to treat the practice like simple high-risk behavior. But as many have pointed out, arguably the biggest beneficiaries of your vaccination are those around you, and not yourself. This is for two reasons.

    (1) Some people are unlucky enough to have immune systems that render them unable to handle vaccines. These people RELY on herd immunity since they cannot protect themselves through vaccination. Your not vaccinating puts them at risk.

    (2) A less-discussed, but critical point of vaccination to close off points-of-entry for the hated microorganism (“bug”). See, bugs mutate… lots. When people talk about “Polio”, they’re referring to many variations of virus on the Polio “theme”.

    (still 2) Vaccines [more-or-less] work by training our immune systems to respond [VIOLENTLY!] to specific chemical signatures that correspond to parts of the bug (like its protein shell). So a vaccine is ONLY effective against bugs that have those specific parts, right? Well, this means that if a bug mutated so it was still deadly but no longer had the same parts that our vaccine trained us for–like, for instance, if the bug mutated and got a new paint job on its outer protein shell–the vaccine becomes USELESS.

    (still 2) Now, these bugs are super-duper small so when someone’s infected they don’t have a few thousand bugs on board; they have, like, gazillions! And each and every one of those gazillion bugs has a some probability of having a mutation. And some of those mutations might change the parts that our vaccines have trained us to recognize. See where I’m going?

    (still 2) It might be a one in a gazillion chance that the bug has a particular vaccine-busting mutation, but remember how many bugs an infected person has on board? That’s right. It’s not like playing the lottery… it’s like playing the lottery a gazillion times in a row! Even ONE infected person puts us ALL at risk.

    So it’s misleading to think of unvaccinated people as “people with high cholesterol” or some other affects-me-only high-risk group. Think of them as drunk drivers. Sure, drunk drivers put themselves and their property at risk, but they ALSO put the rest of us at risk. THAT is why DUIs do more than just an increase in automobile insurance premiums.

  82. Belgarath

    Another thing to consider would be to hold the folks who choose not to vaccinate liable for the damage that they cause. Higher insurance premiums wouldn’t really help those folks who can’t be vaccinated and may very well be harmed by the folks who choose not to vaccinate.

  83. CB

    @ Ron

    So, what has changed? Is it because parents today haven’t had the opportunity to watch their children, or their neighbours’ children die from, oh, say, measles? Is it because they don’t personally know anyone’s child living in a heart-lung machine? It’s probably not because they’re stupid, I know a quite a few anti-vaxers that are well educated professionals.

    Educated professional and intelligent are not the same thing, and certainly it’s possible for someone to be smart in their field and a moron in just about everything else (says the one who thinks they’re pretty smart in their field, but not so sure about everything else ;) ).

    But you’re right that the fundamental problem is ignorance of the reality of the vaccine-free world. Not even if the anti-vaxxers were 100% correct about the dangers would not vaccinating be the right choice, but because they are so clueless about the horrors that the human race suffered, they continue tilting at this windmill.

    More directly related to this discussion: I think raising insurance premiums are the wrong way to go about this. If we’re going to decide that we want to try to coerce anti-vaxxers into ceasing to hurt our own children, then we should not do it in a half-assed way that lets rich-and-clueless people off the hook. Their kids can be the start of an outbreak just as well as a poor kid can.

    And yes, this is about how your choices hurt everyone, so screw the “slippery slope” and fear of government force. I’m all for allowing personal choice. But it’s illegal to burn tires in your back yard, or to dump used motor oil on the grass, because that hurts everyone’s air and water. Not vaccinating hurts everyone’s herd immunity. Unless you’re for allowing your neighbor to burn rubber and plastic if they choose, then you’ve embraced the concept of the “public good” already and there is no slippery slope.

  84. JenBPhillips

    I don’t think raising insurance premiums would be very effective in encouraging vaccine compliance. ‘Sin Taxes’ on cigarettes and booze haven’t appreciably decreased use, they’ve just put more money in the State Tax coffers. Similarly, I suspect increased insurance rates for smokers cause more people to lie about smoking than they encourage actual smoking cessation.

    I think a more effective strategy would be to abolish, or at least severely restrict, Personal Belief Exemptions. They are absurdly easy to invoke in the current system. Full compliance with the vaccination schedule unless medically contraindicated should be required for public school (or organized sports, or whatever) enrollment. Period.

  85. Keith Bowden

    I think varied insurance rates (lower for the vaccinated, higher for the unvaccinated) are perfectly acceptable… but not the solution. (It also should make allowances for those who actually can not be vaccinated to fall in the middle.)

    As for doctors declining woo-patients, well, that’s just free enterprise. As long as they don’t refuse an emergency case, there’s no conflict with their Hippocratic Oath. This is a matter of deciding to spend their limited time seeing patients who may actually listen to and follow their advice and instructions rather than wasting valuable time examining people who will ignore their learned opinions anyway. Think of it as a non-urgent triage, giving priority to those who will accept the aid that’s offered.

    And I really don’t see a difference between mandating vaccinations and mandating child seats (especially since vaccinations are more effective!).

  86. Just for good measure, let’s toss a little bit of cognitive economics in there as well. When people begin to be fined for something that was previously only punished by stress (guilt, inconvenience), they begin to think of the fine as “payment for services rendered.” It stops being a punishment and becomes a price.

    For example, there’s this prick that always parks his expensive car at an angle so it takes up three highly-desirable parking spots. Every day, he gets $20 – $50 in tickets. He hands them to his wife, who cuts a check. Voila: luxury parking space purchased.

    I have friends who have the same mentality when it comes to speeding… until they get close to having their licences suspended. (In fact, wasn’t this behavior depicted on a recent Grey’s Anatomy?)

    The point is this. Will increasing insurance premiums *actually* have the effect you want? Maybe, but the effectiveness would depend on the cost of the increase, the socioeconomic status of the antivaxxer, and the success of the inevitable “Big Pharma + Insurance Companies” conspiracy spin that would emerge (“The medical establishment is trying to FORCE you to either buy EVIL VACCINES -or- pay extra for health insurance!”), and other things.

    Anecdotally, most antivaxxers that I’ve met are middle- to upper-middle class Americans who hold a number of… “non-standard”… beliefs. It’s not that they’re wallowing in money, but they certainly have enough disposable income to support their eccentricities. They pay hundreds of dollars per month on vitamins, homeopathic treatment, chiropractic adjustments, meditation classes, cleanses, books and ingredients for their fad diet du jour, “all natural” household cleansers, etc.

    Unless the proposed health insurance premium increase was in the several THOUSANDS of dollars per month, it probably wouldn’t change any behavior. Furthermore, since most insured Americans (and so I suspect most insured antivaxxers) get their health insurance through their employers’ group plans*, the effectiveness of this plan seems like it’d be tiny at best.

    So concluding, this proposal seems to me like it (α) doesn’t take the real point of vaccines [and thus real danger of not having them] into account, (β) uses an outdated economic theory that assumes people behave rationally when we know they don’t, (γ) possibly underestimates the effectiveness of the antivaxxer spin doctors, and (δ) fails to address the ACTUAL way in which people pay for health insurance. In other words, though I *adore* [you] Phil Plait, I’m HIGHLY skeptical of this plan and can easily imagine it making the situation WORSE! I’m tempted to call it a big pot of FAIL. :(

    (In fact, it’s because I think you rock so hard that I wanted to tell you why I disagreed!)

    * FYI group plans typically offer a single rate (usually three tiers: “individual”, “individual + spouse” and “individual + spouse + children”) to all members of the group. The rate is determined by region-specific actuarial tables and historical group deviation. For example, I worked for a company that had great insurance rates because we were mostly young (3/4 the company was under 30) and fairly health-conscious (exercise regularly, etc.). Through the group rate plan, I paid exactly the same as our Type III morbidly obese, smoking, 54 year old, cancer-surviving, coworker with high cholesterol. (Who, BTW, is a bad ass!)

  87. CB

    @ Nik Laplace
    Hey, natural, as in biodegradable, cleaners are a good thing. Simple Green is better than The Works or Clorox for example.

    And it makes perfect sense that your coworker would pay the same rate, even in an individual plan. It’s well-known that hard-living bad-asses live longer and with fewer health problems than reason or medical sciences would allow. I mean damn Mick Jagger is still around! He should probably get a bad-ass discount. :)

  88. Neil

    David@ #17 says:
    “Consider an opposing scenario:
    What if somebody does do a lot of sports. He might be healthier in the long run, but he/she is far more likely to hurt him/herself in the short run compared to somebody who stays at home. Should every sportsman therefore pay more health insurance?”

    YES! But they never will, because they are popular, which apprently means the rest of us owe them something.
    As a smoker, I’ve asked this same question and other like it, and never once got a satisfactory answer. Yes, smoking is a risky behavior, but all the numbers I’ve seen show that smokers actually cost the system much less than “healthy” people. While a non-drinker, non-smoker lives to be 85 or 90 years old and eventually dies of advanced parkinson’s disease or alzheimer’s or something slow and dragged out after decades of expensive treatments and doctor’s appointments, smokers often die at younger ages, after one or two brief illnesses. There is no logical, honest reason why I should be paying more, just popular but dishonest prejudice.

    If I have to pay more for smoking, then anyone who drives a car regularly should pay more, and I should get a discount for not driving regularly. Anyone who works a job or has a hobby with above average risks should pay more-construction, police, welders, anything with hazardous chemicals or equipment, surfers, rock climbers. People who eat red meat or travel a lot should pay more than I do. All of these are risks with extensive possible costs compared to smoking, but I still get to pay much more than they do. Because my habit is unpopular, I get to pay more to cover you dishonest freeloaders.

    As far as the real topic goes, penalizing anti-vaxxers, I have no problem with that. They are, unlike smokers, drinkers, or even users of hard drugs, taking a big risk on communicable diseases that can have create life-long problems and life-long medical bills, from childhood until natural death. They are also, unlike smokers, passing that risk on to thousands, even tens of thousands of other people who may not be able to be vaccinated through no fault of their own. A middle-aged smoker’s illness and death doesn’t cost anywhere close to as much as say, lifelong physical problems caused by childhood polio.

    Of course, private health insurance is nothing but a disgusting, ghoulish scam in the first place, that does nothing but enrich useless leeches on society and allow large corporations to
    arbitrarily tax and punish wage earners for our personal choices (which are the real reasons republican fascists love it so much.) But as long as we are stuck with the scam instead of a logical and humane system, we might as well penalize those who actually spread disease and death along with us horrible smokers.

    Sorry for the rant….lunatic anti-vaxxers and paper-shuffling health insurance leeches are two of my least favorite groups of people. They deserve each other.

  89. Troy

    To all those “Let’s force vaccinate your children” put yourself in the opposition’s shoes. Disregard your own feelings about vaccinations. These people truly believe harm can come to their child from them. Say that the government was mandating injecting your child with something you truly felt had a high risk to do harm to your child. Would you simply say “oh well, it’s the law” and let them do it?

    That’s how these people truly feel. It doesn’t matter whether it’s logical or not. I know if I truly felt that way and someone was about to force inject my child with something I felt was dangerous to them they’d have to step over my dead body to do it.

  90. complex field

    @RobinS:

    “We can add to the list of people he thinks should be pay more: bicyclists, people who ride buses (great disease spreading environments), people who don’t wear sunscreen, kids who play school sports….”

    That’s why we have actuaries

  91. Joseph G

    @ 86 CB: But you’re right that the fundamental problem is ignorance of the reality of the vaccine-free world. Not even if the anti-vaxxers were 100% correct about the dangers would not vaccinating be the right choice, but because they are so clueless about the horrors that the human race suffered, they continue tilting at this windmill.

    That’s the really amazing bit. You’re absolutely right: when you look at the numbers, you find that even if the antivaxxers were right about every harmful aspect of vaccinations, you’d still be more likely to be maimed or killed by disease, then you would by vaccines!

  92. Joseph G

    @87 Nik Laplace: In a similar vein (heh) I read a story about a study of blood banks where they started offering small sums of cash for donations. Donations actually dropped, because it stopped being a “good deed” and became just a transaction. I also read something about a daycare center that started fining parents for picking up their kids late – again, lateness actually increased, because it stopped being an issue of “niceness” and just became a convenience fee.

    PS: I don’t think meditation really belongs in the same category as chiropractic or colon cleanses. There are actually solid clinical studies showing that meditation has measurable health benefits. My doctor (regular family practice guy, not a “Naturopath” or anything weird like that) actually prescribes meditation as a preventive health practice. In fact, before I started meditating, I had prehypertension, and now my blood pressure is actually lower then normal. I know, anecdote not evidence, correlation not causation, yadda yadda. Just saying… :)

  93. Troy,

    Are you suggesting we cater to people’s ignorance and allow a public health risk because of it? Or are you just trying to put into perspective the resistance to such a law?

  94. Father Tyme

    @86 CB,
    Thanks for the information:

    “And yes, this is about how your choices hurt everyone, so screw the “slippery slope” and fear of government force. I’m all for allowing personal choice. But it’s illegal to burn tires in your back yard, or to dump used motor oil on the grass, because that hurts everyone’s air and water. Not vaccinating hurts everyone’s herd immunity. Unless you’re for allowing your neighbor to burn rubber and plastic if they choose, then you’ve embraced the concept of the “public good” already and there is no slippery slope.

    We’re already down that slope unless you think it’s ok for business to pollute the air and water. And yes, I can burn tires in my back yard. Factually, it’s ok to do that in more places than it’s illegal.
    Dump oil on the grass? After BP, you worry about that?
    The whole point of this matter has become fear mongering. And to hold those responsible who didn’t vaccinate their children or themselves, good luck in court proving they caused someone else’s suffering. The courts can’t even agree on second hand smoke law suits and you want to punish the guy down the block because you or your kids may have gotten the flu? How will you prove he did it? You have that kind of money?
    There’s nothing wrong with vaccines. But which ones do we distribute so cavalierly? The Swine Flu stuff has already shown some people can’t take it. Do we ignore those and innoculate them anyway, possibly condemning them to extreme sickness or even death because of your fear you MAY get sick? There has to be another way.
    For every instance of good vaccines can do, there is an answer that could complicate it.
    With all the recalls of drugs since the Bush Administrations cut backs of the FDA (and the continuing ignorance of the Obama Administration), how do we know which drugs REALLY are safe? If you and your family would like to be guinea pigs, I’m sure a lot of others wouldn’t care (as long as it’s not them). George Carlin’s NIMBY comes to mind.
    The drug Thalidomide came close to being given to nearly every pregnant woman in America back int he late 50s and early 60s. If you’re too young to remember it, google it to see the disaster it caused. Yet even with its known problems, there are questionable and possibly unscrupulous drug companies again working with it, hoping to eliminate the problems it caused. Who gets to test that?
    It used to be the FDA required a long period of testing before the drug was released, sometimes 7 or more years. Since 2002, some drugs are released after as little as 6 months; some even less. And we’ve all read about studies that have been covered up or falsified by business. Bottom line is they don’t really care about your health. It’s money. The H1N1 scare should have pointed that out. Same with Sars in America.
    Worry more about BP, Monsanto, Exxon/Mobile, a dozen gene labs.
    Don’t sweat the burning rubber!

  95. JenBPhillips

    The Swine Flu stuff has already shown some people can’t take it.

    [citation needed]

    For every instance of good vaccines can do, there is an answer that could complicate it.

    [citation needed]

    Bottom line is they don’t really care about your health. It’s money. The H1N1 scare should have pointed that out.

    [citation needed]

    Worry more about BP, Monsanto, Exxon/Mobile, a dozen gene labs.
    Don’t sweat the burning rubber!

    So glad to be sharing the planet with you, pal.
    And WTF is a “gene lab”??

  96. Ron1

    Joseph G … No offence taken. :)

    …………………..

    JenBPhillips ……… Very nice work – subtle and pointed. Father Tyme won’t be so lucky after Nigel and the midnight shift are done with him.
    Cheers

  97. Ron1

    @91 Neil said, ” … private health insurance is nothing but a disgusting, ghoulish scam in the first place, that does nothing but enrich useless leeches on society and allow large corporations to
    arbitrarily tax and punish wage earners for our personal choices (which are the real reasons republican fascists love it so much.) But as long as we are stuck with the scam” …

    ………………….

    Why are you stuck with the scam. I mean, come on, look what’s happening in Cairo tonight. While there is no need to use violence, the power of the people has been demonstrated over and over.

    Of course, another way to look at changing health care in the US is to take a look at how it was done in Canada — namely, province by province.

    Universal health care was initially fought against as hard and dirty as it is in the US. However, the province of Saskatchewan was the first under Tommy Douglas (1946) followed by Alberta (1950). By 1961 all ten Provinces saw the benefit and they too moved to universal health care. In the end, the hold-out provinces eventually came on line because corporations found there was a HUGE benefit in having health care provided by government and the provinces without health care could not compete against those who could. As well, the citizens simply demanded it.

    So, start with New Hampshire, add more progressive states and eventually the southern Conservative states will be forced to follow — even stupid people want a good thing when they see that other people have it.

    Also, the great depression was the catalyst for Canada’s system.

    Where there is a will, there is a way. Have hope, even Glen Beck’s audience share is down 30% in the last few months — people are catching on.

    Cheers

  98. Yeebok Shu'in

    Hey.. What happens in Australia is through the social security system, you have to prove your child is vaccinated to continue receiving whichever child related payment. This way it hits antivaxxers in their income pocket. I am pretty sure our system’s different enough to yours that you could not implement that idea exactly, but something similar should be doable.
    What it boils down to is govt-encouraged vaccination with financial incentives, instead of penalties.

    I am all for the positive rather than punitive rewards. Even so, we still have that avn abomination here :(

  99. Messier Tidy Upper

    @3. Dennis : All in favor, say “aye”. Aye!

    Aye! :-)

  100. Dustin

    One of the roles of govt. is to protect the citizens from both foreign and domestic threats. Public health falls under this category. Mandating vaccinations is the way to go since the new health care bill will make raising premiums based on poor health choices and preexisting conditions a thing of the past. Mandating parents to vaccinate their children is none of the parents business. What is best for the child, medically, scientifically, socially, and economically is what is important. Also, like it or not, your neighbors, your neighbors children, or some other citizen of the United States, are part of our community. If your neighbor dies and there children have no place to go, the state will provide. Every child is not the property of two parents but rather the whole community. We pay taxes for children to go to school, get an education, as well as other forms of investment of human capital. We have just as much a right, by a democratic process, to tell parents what they can or cannot do. Independence is fine when it comes down to choosing where your life takes you, but with freedom comes consequences, and if these parents don’t have the forsight or intelligence to do what is right for their children, ie by giving into their fear of the irrational, then the state should then strip them of their children. It’s the equivalent to a parent beating their child, the state must intervene for the well-being and safety of the child, well-being being the key concept. If the actions of a parent will lead to the long term suffereing of a child, you get my point.

  101. Svlad Cjelli

    @78 Scott B: The line is supposed to be drawn between your fist and the tip of my nose.

  102. MartinM

    The drug Thalidomide came close to being given to nearly every pregnant woman in America back int he late 50s and early 60s. If you’re too young to remember it, google it to see the disaster it caused. Yet even with its known problems, there are questionable and possibly unscrupulous drug companies again working with it, hoping to eliminate the problems it caused.

    Rubbish. Nobody is ‘hoping to eliminate the problems it caused’. Thalidomide is a teratogenic agent, and as such is not suitable for use in pregnant women. The current research is looking at using it in the treatment of cancer; nobody has suggested using it in pregnant women.

  103. Father Tyme

    @104 MartinM,
    “…nobody has suggested using it in pregnant women.”
    Possibly you could stop with the Fox style of reply to comment? Either that or look closer at the tense of the sentence you quote. The operative phrase is “came close to being given…” and further stipulates the “…late 50s and 60s…” There is no suggestion other than in your interpretation that Thalidomide is currently being used or suggested for pregnant women. DO you write for Fox?

    To satirize @98 JenBPhilips: (from @104 MartinM)

    Thalidomide is a teratogenic agent, and as such is not suitable for use in pregnant women.
    [Citation needed]

    The current research is looking at using it in the treatment of cancer;
    [Citation needed]

    Of course Thalidomide is not suitable for pregnant women. That was discovered after many delivered deformed babies. It was given to pregnant women before the effects were known and possibly (notice I said possibly) AFTER the side effects were known. (no citation provided. Look it up then correct me!)
    Of course, statements don’t need citations unless those reading them are too lazy or whatever to be able to check for themselves to learn even more. But that’s what we’ve become; a society that needs everything handed to us so we don’t have to do any research on our own.

    @JenBPhillips,
    Do you believe everything you read, Jen, just because it has a citation? You have the greatest means of learning since Gutenberg, yet you would accept a simple citation that for all you know could have come from no less an “authority” than Wikipedia! Would you have checked out a citation I made or just accepted the fact that I included a citation? And if it came from Wikipedia and was written by someone who was in error, what then? Is one citation enough? Are two?
    You may think you’re sharing the same planet with me [pal], but the time frame in which you exist suggests a much earlier period where people were encouraged not to think for themselves.

    Having taught science for years, if my students accepted only my word unquestioningly, then I failed as a teacher. Happily, I know they didn’t. They were taught to question and learn. The idea of science is to question, not blindly follow. This line of blind acceptance is exemplified by the fine folks at Fox with their Climate Change Deniers who only hear one side and are too lazy or stupid to gather information for themselves. Fox provides a silver platter for them to feast from. I’m not sure what you were taught about acceptance of “facts” but some of us learned to check on things, to make sure we had facts, even if it came from ONE professor who may or may not have been correct in his teachings, you know, the way the church taught “back in the day”…or even now?

    I’m equally sure you did no research since posting your sardonic repartee. Prove me wrong.

    @Ron1,
    I await Nigel and the Midnight shift.

  104. Nigel Depledge

    Scott B (11) said:

    I know most disagree, but IMO the whole purpose of insurance should be so that we all pay for everyone’s care because there’s a chance any of us could need to use it at any time. Prices shouldn’t be manipulated to motivate people to vaccinate their children or exercise more or live healthier. Personally, I’m happy to pay what I do today to ensure others on the same insurance can choose what they want to do, even if I disagree with them as I do if they don’t vaccinate their children.

    In principle, yes, but in the real world, we are penalised by insurance companies for where we live (home contents insurance) and what our age and track record are (car insurance) and so on. Obviously, insurance companies wish to attract customers who will never (or rarely) need a pay-out, and they do this by lowering premiums for people they regard as “low-risk” and loading the premiums of people they regard as “high-risk”.

  105. Nigel Depledge

    Father Tyme (105) said:

    @Ron1,
    I await Nigel and the Midnight shift.

    It’s nice to know someone appreciates us Euro-weenies! :-)

  106. Nigel Depledge

    Robin S (23) said:

    The pediatricians that won’t treat kids whose parents are antivaxxers? Why, they’re right up there with pharmacists that refuse to give out the morning after pill.

    You make some good points earlier in your post, but I disagree with this bit. There is no analogy – the refusal to give out the morning-after pill is a moral judgement that the pharmacist has no right to make. Why should a paediatrician – a medical expert – put up with patients who refuse to accept their expertise as valid?

    Having said that, I think you are right, but for different reasons. It’s a question of where to draw the line, and that opens up huge vistas of confusing greyness.

  107. Nigel Depledge

    Scott B (36) said:

    @Luis:

    “one of the functions of government is to safeguard public health”

    I don’t believe this should be one of the functions of government at an individual level. I agree that businesses need to be regulated so their actions don’t increase peoples’ health risks, but don’t think the government should be taking steps to ensure individuals live in the most healthy ways. Going there is one of the slipperier slopes we could go down.

    Ah, the thread’s first “slippery slope” argument.

    So, if the government has a duty to safeguard public health and isn’t – in your view – entitled to do this “at an individual level”, how should they discharge this duty with respect to communicable diseases? Do you think they should have the power to quarantine the unvaccinated? If not, how else – short of mandatory vaccination – should they discharge this duty?

    And do you feel that you shouldn’t be required to wear a seat-belt in a motor vehicle? If not, why is this different from vaccination?

  108. Arthur Reader

    I think raising insurance rates for non-vaccinated is a terrible idea. For those parents who are both deluded by anti-vaxxers and near the poverty line, raising insurance rates will simply mean lower health cover for those children (and for some, none at all)

    My children are vaccinated (more than once as well since they’ve lived in multiple countries). I think that parents can be scared into vaccinations if there are threatened or actual pandemics, although it wasn’t necessary in my case.

    But some children will die or be seriously injured because of their parents’ faulty belief systems. I don’t see (short of extreme authoritarianism) any way to change that sad reality.

  109. Col

    Bollocks. If you aren’t willing to vaccinate your child, you are an unfit parent and should have your children taken into care for their protection. No argument, no debate. Vaccinate or don’t have children.

  110. “I’ll admit though, that the idea of requiring vaccinations bugs me. I don’t like it when the government forces me to do things for my own good, even when that good is overwhelmingly positive (like, say, seat belt use). I’ll admit this is not a completely rational reaction — more visceral, I’d say — but it’s a good indication that if we did try to pass laws requiring vaccinations, the outcry would be substantial.”

    At least you are honest about your feelings, but remember, when there is a conflict between science and libertarianism, science wins. Also, as you have pointed out yourself many times, forcing people to do something for their own good is not the issue. The issues are forcing parents to behave responsibly with respect to their children, who have no say in the matter (Would you oppose a law banning FGM on the grounds that it is the government telling people what to do for their own good?), and increasing herd immunity so that those too young to be vaccinated, or who cannot be vaccinated for other reasons, are not endangered.

  111. CB

    We’re already down that slope unless you think it’s ok for business to pollute the air and water. And yes, I can burn tires in my back yard. Factually, it’s ok to do that in more places than it’s illegal.
    Dump oil on the grass? After BP, you worry about that?

    The discussion is about personal choice vs public good and so I kept my examples in that vein. Obviously the scale of BP makes it vastly more significant. But yes, of course I also worry about smaller scale problems — would you argue that the BP spill means it is or should be okay to dump oil wherever you want? I doubt it. It’s illegal to burn tires in Texas, by the way, and few places feel as strongly about being able to do as you choose on your own property. I’m sure Texas is outnumbered by the even more backward places which do not care about air quality at all.

    But yes, my whole point was that there’s no slippery slope, because we’ve already gone down it. Compared to what has already occurred, mandatory vaccination is not exceptional, ergo cannot be used to make a slippery slope argument.

    The whole point of this matter has become fear mongering. And to hold those responsible who didn’t vaccinate their children or themselves, good luck in court proving they caused someone else’s suffering. The courts can’t even agree on second hand smoke law suits and you want to punish the guy down the block because you or your kids may have gotten the flu? How will you prove he did it? You have that kind of money?

    There’s a difference between proving legal culpability for a specific instance of disease transmission, and demonstrating that reduced vaccination rates cause increased infection rates and a public health risk. Only one of these two is truly relevant to the discussion.

    The drug Thalidomide came close to being given to nearly every pregnant woman in America back int he late 50s and early 60s. If you’re too young to remember it, google it to see the disaster it caused. Yet even with its known problems, there are questionable and possibly unscrupulous drug companies again working with it, hoping to eliminate the problems it caused. Who gets to test that?

    Here’s where you brought up Thalidomide and the deformities it caused, and then call current uses questionable and possibly unscrupulous. If you weren’t implying that it would be given to pregnant women which would necessitate eliminating the problems it caused, then what is the basis for calling it questionable and unscrupulous? The assumption that something which is bad in one use is bad in all? What were you actually trying to imply?

    (no citation provided. Look it up then correct me!) Of course, statements don’t need citations unless those reading them are too lazy or whatever to be able to check for themselves to learn even more. But that’s what we’ve become; a society that needs everything handed to us so we don’t have to do any research on our own.

    Actually we’re a society that is used to having people making things up on the spot, and with the advent of the internet, we now can reasonably ask “And where did you hear that?” and quickly go to the source ourselves. If the person making the claim can’t even source their claim, why then should anyone listening care enough to “learn more”? If I researched every statement ever made by a random person on the Internet, I never would have had the time to read your post in the first place because I’d still be looking up things said in 1997.

    Which isn’t to say I don’t research things that are sourced. Quite the contrary; just because you provide a WP or other link doesn’t mean the matter is settled. It does mean that you at least went to the trouble to bother backing up your own claims rather than demanding that we either go verify/disprove them ourselves or accept them. Well it doesn’t work like that. Like I said, it would be completely pointless to research every claim made. If someone claiming to be a science teacher could show no credentials and had no science book and made a bunch of claims about science, it wouldn’t be a matter of investigating further to see if what they said was true or not. It’d be a matter of ignoring everything they said and finding a real source of information.

    In short: if it’s not worth your time to back up something with a cite, it’s not worth my time to research something that’s probably made up.

  112. JenBPhillips

    Father Tyme @106:

    You have woefully underestimated my standards for what constitutes an acceptable citation, and as such seem to have jumped to a lot of preposterous conclusions about my worldview. Suffice to say, you are spectacularly wrong on all counts.
    My motive in asking for a citation was to, you know, indicate that *you needed to back up the statements you were declaring as facts*.

    Having taught science for years, if my students accepted only my word unquestioningly, then I failed as a teacher. Happily, I know they didn’t. They were taught to question and learn. The idea of science is to question, not blindly follow.

    So by your own admission, you should know how this works. You blathered some “facts” out of your arse, now I’m asking you to back them up.

    I’m equally sure you did no research since posting your sardonic repartee.

    Wrong again, sensei. I’m a research biologist. I do research every day. I’m doing some this very minute! And I have, in fact, done a considerable amount of research on vaccines, teratogens, and a variety of human health topics. If you actually do provide some sources to back your claims, you can be assured that I have sufficient professional training to critically peruse every one of them.

    Still really curious to know what a “gene lab” is and why we should be worried about them, by the way.

  113. Father Tyme:

    1 – If you are making a claim it is your responsibility to back it up with evidence. It is not JenB’s (or anyone else’s) responsibility to go stumping around doing your work for you.

    On topic:

    I disagree with higher insurance premiums for anti-vaxxers. I daresay they would treat it as a ‘cost of doing business’.

    Since getting one’s child(ren) vaccinated (or not) is not, in my estimation, a parenting choice per se (just like choosing to acquire and install proper child safety seats in one’s automobile is also not a parenting choice), I think it’s simpler and easier for the US to tighten up vaccine exemptions.

    I think that people who argue in favour of parental freedom to vaccinate/not vaccinate their children have things conceptually bass ackwards. One’s responsibility as a parent is to look out for the best interests of one’s children, not to subordinate one’s children’s interests to one’s own desires. Likewise, one’s freedom to free-ride off others’ vaccination efforts does not outweigh others’ interest in freedom from fear of infectious disease.

  114. Marc

    It has been said above in not so many words, perhaps, but I think you can make a much stronger case for requiring vaccination than you can seatbelts. Seatbelts are about self-protection, and they are definitely nanny-state-ish. After all, if you only can hurt yourself more, then why does the state have a real compelling interest to overcome implied privacy rights.

    I think a better analogy is that we have laws outlawing guns on school campuses. In all likelihood, a kid who brings a gun to school will go away from school that day without shooting anyone, without really endangering anyone, and without harming himself. But we still outlaw guns on school campuses because of the odd chance that someone might be injured or might injure themselves. I don’t have the stats with me, but I would bet that more people are injured annually by lack of herd immunity than are injured by guns in schools. Even if I’m wrong on my guess, I still feel this analogy of treating an unvaccinated child as if they are a carrier still provides a compelling case for state interest.

    I guess I’m saying I have a lot more qualms about seatbelt laws than I do about requiring vaccination.

  115. Johnny

    “but we are forced to subsidize their increased medical costs, as alluded to above.”

    What research are you basing this claim upon? It’s been my anecdotal experience that non-vaccinated children are not as sick as often and don’t go to the doctor as often. As far as Autism goes, the only people I know with it are those who vaccinated according to schedule. I don’t know of any Autism cases in unvaccinated children.

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