The COVID-19 crisis is revealing the selfishness of the anti-vaxxer movement

Posted Monday, March 23rd, 2020 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Jurisprudence, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to General Public

I’ve never had much tolerance for most of the anti-vaccination parents I encounter practicing child custody law. Not only are their views on vaccinations anti-science and highly selective of discredited research–I see a lot of that these days–but they’ve always struck me as selfish. The public health crisis created by COVID-19 has hardened this view. I will no longer represent parents who demand I advocate anti-vaccine positions for their non- immunocompromised child(ren). Here’s why.

Let’s assume the anti-vaxxer belief is accurate: vaccines are the primary reason 1 in 70 American children have autism spectrum disorders. Even then, refusing to vaccinate children who are not immunocompromised would still be an incredibly selfish act. Parents who do not vaccinate rely upon the herd immunity created by other parents vaccinating their children to protect their own children from contagious diseases that historically used to kill approximately 20% of all children. If no one was vaccinating their children, and 20% of all children were still dying from mumps, measles, polio, whooping cough, and other historically contagious childhood diseases, no rational parent would forgo an alleged 1.4% risk of autism from the vaccines for a 20% risk of death. Vaccine refusal is a luxury created from the herd immunity generated by the vast majority of parents vaccinating their children.

The COVID-19 crisis highlights this issue. I was telling friends and family in late-February that COVID-19 was likely to be the most consequential story of our lifetime. Most thought I was exaggerating (there were 68 diagnosed cases in the United States on February 29th). They all believe me now (at the time I post this, there have been 33,018 diagnosed cases, most businesses in Charleston are shut down, beaches are closed, and the courts are hearing nothing but emergencies through May 1st). With no herd immunity, no vaccine, and no effective treatments, society has been suddenly and radically altered in a manner unprecedented in my lifetime. If and when an effective vaccine is developed, parents will be clamoring for their children to be among the first to receive it.

In the past I have disagreed with the position of my anti-vaxxer clients but have not refused to advocate those positions if the client demanded it. No more. South Carolina Rule of Professional Conduct 1.16(b)(4) allows an attorney to withdraw from representation that the attorney “considers repugnant.” Earlier in my career I refused cases that would have required advocating against gay rights or marriage equality on this basis. This current health crises solidifies my belief that the anti-vaxxer position is repugnant. I urge all family law attorneys who share this belief to stop advocating the anti-vaxxer position.

8 thoughts on The COVID-19 crisis is revealing the selfishness of the anti-vaxxer movement

  1. Michael Quayle says:

    Taking this professional position is admirably courageous and sound in both logic and ethics.

  2. Mindy Schneider says:

    Amen. You are the best.

  3. David DeVane says:

    Amen. Nothing is more precious than our children and grandchildren! Anti-Vaxxers need not seek my representation either.

  4. As always–thoughtful. Whenever we have challenges like were facing right now, it forces us to re-evaluate our thinking, opinions, and values. Thanks.

  5. Anthony John Hensleigh says:

    You are all totally brainwashed, same has a religious person would say an atheists is wrong and evil because they don’t believe in heaven & hell and flying angels, just get a grip on reality will you all and very very stupid of you to think that people that are anti vaccines are stupid, that implies that atheists are stupid also then, show me a god and show me that them vaccines that have not been approved are safe and with no long term consequences.

  6. Stacey allam says:

    Oh yes, beware the selfishness if the anti covid spouse and parent. They are insuring there families safety , livelyhoods ,economic solvency etc on the backs of us who are vaccinated without so much as a thank you

  7. Heather Pasley says:

    I’m curious if you all feel the same about the unvaccinated and vaccine hesitant now? Are we selfish repugnant people, or did our concerns prove valid?

    1. I still won’t advocate anti-vaccination positions. Parents who won’t vaccinate their children against dangerous childhood illnesses (measles; mumps, rubella) are making a foolish decision–and a selfish decision if they are relying on other children’s immunity to shield their own children from these diseases.

      I have a slightly more nuanced view on COVID vaccines. Hindsight has shown that children were not particularly susceptible to serious illness from COVID-19. Thus, I understand why folks won’t vaccinate their children. It appears the much greater mortality and morbidity for older people was due to the lack of any built-up immunity to that particular coronavirus. At this point, any American can have have five vaccinations against COVID. That appears to supply pretty good immunity against serious disease. I myself survived one bout of COVID after getting vaccinated four times and it was a mild cold that required isolation but no medical care. Most folks who are willing to get five vaccinations are probably well protected against serious illness. Folks who won’t vaccinate themselves and their children are mostly endangering their own health and the health of the unvaccinated. It’s not ideal (1,000 dead Americans a week) but I’m not going with argue with them about this.

      I didn’t call anti-vaxxers repugnant; I called their views repugnant. I did call them selfish. I still think they are.

      No reply needed. You asked the questions; you got them answered; and I’m not interested in debating you.

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