A Shot in the Arm

Last week as I sat on a local college campus, a very organized group set up shop next to me.  They were on campus to collect signatures from registered voters asking for the issue of mandatory vaccinations to be put on the ballot for voter approval or repeal in November.  California recently mandated vaccinations for all children attending public or private schools (but not home schooled children – yet).

I’ve talked about this issue previously so I won’t go into it again.  Other than to say that now a recommendation has come out that all children older than six months should receive an influenza vaccination.  Despite the fact that the vaccination is merely a guess about what influenza strains will be prevalent (last year’s vaccination was only 23% effective, according to the article).  And of course if the kids are going to be vaccinated, then everyone around them needs to be as well.  Under the California law, this recommendation could be referenced as a basis for adding influenza vaccinations to the current list of mandatory vaccinations.  In fact, no such actual recommendation is legally required.  No vote is required about adding new vaccines to the mandatory list.  No provision for alerting the public to additions to the mandatory vaccine list is made.  A state-level committee can make whatever additions they feel necessary, at any time, and parents and voters need never be informed and don’t have any recourse – short of petitioning for the issue to be addressed at the ballot.

But I digress.  A few observations about last week.

Three of the people I met collecting signatures were not American citizens.  This isn’t illegal or anything, but it is fascinating.  Two were German citizens, I believe, and the other was Peruvian.  Yet they were passionate enough about this issue to come out and solicit American citizens to get involved in their political process.  To me that’s very telling.  One of the Germans was a child in the aftermath of World War II.  She understood from her parents and family exactly how Hitler gained and solidified political control.  He did so through legal machinations.  I know how passionate she is that the same mistakes not be perpetrated in this country.

We have an amazing freedom here, but it is only as useful as our willingness to both utilize it and hold our leadership accountable to it.  Ironically enough, it’s people who have direct experience with other systems of government who recognize how valuable and important and rare this is.  I was very touched that these people would give of themselves to help protect American citizens and to help hold American governmental entities accountable to the will of the people.

I appreciated how they went about gaining signatures.  If the person was unsure about their position on the issue, the response was not generally to try and convince them that mandatory vaccines are questionable, but simply to state that uncertainty is the very reason the issue ought to be on the ballot.  Putting it on the ballot gives everyone the opportunity to become better informed, to determine what their position on the issue actually is, and then to vote their conscience.  I think that’s a commendable approach.  We can and should argue and disagree about things – this is the nature of humanity and politics!  But then we should have the right to vote our conscience on the issue, after becoming informed.

After I left there was evidently a young woman harassing the signature-gatherers, yelling at them and trying to interfere when they were talking with students.  She had to be escorted away multiple times, from what I heard.  It’s depressing that on a campus where ostensibly students are present to be educated and to encounter other ideas, some of them feel that the best response is to name-call and try to suppress alternate viewpoints.

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