Disneyland, measles vaccines and the illusion of choice

Disneyland crowd

Disneyland crowd

“I went to Disneyland and all I got was this t-shirt” is now a good thing, given that Disneyland in Anaheim, California is considered Ground Zero for the current U.S. measles outbreak. This outbreak of measles has now spread to 14 states with 102 reported cases as of January 30, which is double the pace of reported cases from last year. Experts agree that the measles outbreak at Disneyland and across the United States is a result of people who have not been vaccinated. In California alone, scores of parents at some schools have refused to vaccinate their children by signing a “personal belief exemption,” which is also available in a number of other U.S. states. Some of these so-called “anti-vaxxers” unfortunately have fallen prey to thoroughly debunked false information alleging that vaccines cause autism and other scary problems.

The “anti-vaxxer” movement even threatens to become a big issue in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, as possible GOP candidates Rand Paul and Chris Christie thus far have both adopted anti-vaxxer sentiments, as has Carly Fiorina, all claiming that vaccinating children should be “voluntary” or “a choice.” These statements conflicted with President Barack Obama‘s advice that “you should get your kids vaccinated,” as well as the opinions of other potential Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal and Dr. Ben Carson. A Christie spokesman subsequently walked back Christie’s comments, demonstrating how the vaccination issue could present more problems for Republicans in the coming election season. However, even looking at Disneyland alone, the idea of choice regarding measles vaccines and other public health issues is an illusion.

Here is but a partial list of things about which you do NOT have a choice at Disneyland (meaning, if you try to do these things, you are subject to potentially harsh consequences):

1. You may not cut in front of others lined up for the rides and attractions.
2. You may not park anywhere you want.
3. You may not enter Disneyland without a ticket or pass.
4. You may not visit Disneyland without being subject to a search at their security checkpoint.
5. You may not bring guns, mace, glass beverage bottles or many other items into the park.
6. You may not walk around naked in Disneyland.
7. You may not have sex in public.
8. You may not urinate or defecate outside of designated rest rooms at Disneyland.
9. You must fasten your seatbelts or your safety bar, depending on the ride.
10. You may not go on rides that have never had safety inspections, even if you would prefer to do so.
11. You may not accept food or drink purchases from the park’s vendors and then refuse to pay for them.
12. You may not throw food or drinks at other visitors inside Disneyland.
13. You may not hit, kick or attack other park guests.
14. You may not break into Disneyland before it opens, or stay after it closes.
15. You may not set fires in the park.
16. You may not erect your own windmill in Disneyland to avoid using the park’s electricity which comes from utilities or elsewhere.
17. You may not drive 100 miles per hour on the public highways and roads leading to Disneyland.
18. You may not drive to Disneyland without fastening your seatbelt.
19. You may not drive to Disneyland while using a hand-held cell phone or while texting.
20. You may not drive to Disneyland in a car that is not covered by automobile insurance.

Outside of Disneyland, in the real world, there are likewise numerous things that we are not permitted to do. The fact is, modern societies where large groups of people gather together must have rules and regulations to keep individuals from harming others. Imagine your local roads and highways without any traffic signals, stop signs, lane markings or speed limits. It has long been recognized that the rules which must guide societies include vaccinations and other efforts (such as sewage and sanitation systems) to stop the spread of diseases. While conservatives and Republicans in particular are finding the words “liberty” and “freedom” fashionable nowadays, the long-recognized limit on such freedom is contained in variations on the saying: “Your freedom to swing your arm ends at my nose.”

Therefore, in the current outbreak of measles and anti-vaxxers across the U.S., thoughtful people will hopefully promote their reliance on science, and their values of Protection and Security. This includes the idea that, in a modern society, we simply do not have the selfish “choice” to disregard science and do dangerous things in public that are reasonably likely to harm others. That includes failing to vaccinate our children and then sending them to school, to Disneyland, or anywhere else outside the home.

Photo by Doug Wertman, used under Creative Commons license.  http://is.gd/F9jt9U

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