Individual Freedom vs. Public Health – A Physician’s Perspective

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The risk of these preventable communicable diseases is far greater than the risk of the vaccination.

How do we balance public safety and personal choices? In a well functioning democratic society, everybody has a responsibility to accept a social contract in order to protect its citizens from preventable disease. The recent movement not to vaccinate children jeopardizes the public well being. If the majority of people held absolute freedom of individualism above what should be an equal responsibility to the community there would be chaos.
Vaccines don’t just protect you.

We do not accept a neighbor’s right to allow his home to become a health hazard affecting his neighbors and children. The same is true in the case of refusing to vaccinate a child. It is not just the freedom of the individual at stake when you refuse to vaccinate your child. Your child is too young to exercise his or her own judgment and is subject to your own misguided views on vaccination.

All our children and members of the community are at risk from your decision.

What happens when some people don’t get vaccinated?

Even a small number of unvaccinated people can make it much easier for a disease to spread.

There is a concept in science called “herd immunity.” It refers to the idea that a lot of people need to get a specific vaccine to stop a disease from spreading. Vaccinated people essentially act as a protective barrier to outbreaks, since diseases can’t pass through them and infect others.

This barrier helps protect some of the most vulnerable populations: infants under 12 months of age are too young to be vaccinated and are more susceptible to infection; the elderly, who have a higher risk of death; and people with compromised immune systems, who can’t receive.

Vaccinations are safe.

There is no link between vaccination and autism! The only study to make that conclusion was falsified and IMMEDIATELY retracted by several of the authors. The doctor who authored the small study had is medical license taken away. The journal retracted the study after they concluded that the authors had manipulated the numbers. That did not stop the lead author, whose son is autistic, from continuing to preach his falsified findings to the public. The anti-vaccine movement is based upon a false premise.

Vaccines can cause minor side effects such as redness and swelling at the injection site, just like any other medicine. Serious complications can occur, although this is a rare occurence. The risk of these preventable communicable diseases is far greater than the risk of the vaccination.

Not vaccinating can be deadly or disabling.

Measles, which is a highly contagious disease, used to cause death, blindness, deafness and severe brain injury to children until vaccinations became available. There were so many children with severe disability caused by measles and other childhood illness that there were schools for the blind and deaf in each state, until the success of childhood vaccinations closed their doors. Helen Keller became blind and deaf after suffering a communicable childhood illness.

Vaccines are among the most cost-effective health interventions ever developed. In the United States we have essentially eradicated childhood diseases such as small pox, polio and measles through vaccination. The rest of the world is not so fortunate. Many young physicians have never sees a case of measles or polio.

Despite these great strides, there remains an urgent need to reach all children with life-saving vaccines. One in five children worldwide are not fully protected with even the most basic vaccines. As a result, an estimated 1.5 million children die each year—one every 20 seconds—from vaccine-preventable diseases. Tens of thousands of other children suffer from severe or permanently disabling illnesses. In 2013, there were 145,700 measles deaths globally – about 400 deaths every day or 16 deaths every hour.

We live in a country where you do have the freedom of choice to vaccinate your child but I believe it is our obligation to protect the most vulnerable members of our society by choosing to vaccinate our children.

This column is no substitute for seeing your own health care provider. You can read about all of my escapades on my blog

Dr. Paula Dhanda is a practicing physician in Kelseyville. She is the founder of Worldwide Healing Hands. She may be reached at 707-279-8733 or visit or

Published in the Lake County Record Bee:
Healing Hands: Individual freedom vs. public health — A physician’s perspective