The Vaccine Debate Must Address Crony Capitalism

Alice Salles Comments

Writing in a medical journal in late 2001, UK physician Dr. Michael Jarmulowicz discussed the need for an alternative to the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, questioning “the adamant refusal of the authorities to facilitate the availability of the single measles vaccine.”

Dr. Jarmulowicz noted, “the Department of Health [had] banned” single measles vaccines within the country’s public health care system- a grievous policy for parents who were opposed to the rubella immunization on the “grounds of conscience because of its manufacture on cell lines extracted from an aborted fetus.”

Now, we’re having this debate in the United States, but instead of shining a light on the monopoly over MMR and how government enables it, the media has largely made the debate about the “anti-vaxxer” movement, dehumanizing anyone who opposes the composite vaccine and dismissing their concerns as mere anti-science mumble jumble.

The reality is that this debate goes far deeper and the dismissal of the government’s troubling influence is beginning to prove fatal.

vaccine MMR measles

In a recent article, Mises Institute’s Ryan McMaken explained that many parents resist the MMR vaccines on a variety of grounds.

In a free market, where vaccine providers would have to address all consumers’ needs, this would eventually lead to more choices as pharmaceutical companies would have to come up with single measles vaccine alternatives. However, it is currently impossible for an American parent to find a variant of the measles vaccine that is not combined with the rubella and mumps immunization. This isn’t because entrepreneurs, startups, and foreign firms don’t find a reason to compete with Merck Corporation, but because government has granted the firm so much power that regulations keep competitors from entering the market. The result is what we see now, as fewer parents want to vaccinate their children, even if they do think that protecting their little ones from measles is important.

In order to scare them into action, it seems, media, government entities, and doctors all began to use cases of the disease to stoke fear. But despite the move, parents remain reluctant. To push back, government is now doing what it does best by pushing rules that force everyone to comply, regardless of their concerns and points of view.

If government wasn’t a factor, another company could have already provided a single measles vaccine that would have prevented what many have now dubbed as a serious health crisis. But instead, government let the epidemic grow, giving bureaucrats the justification to force more parents to comply.

As noted by McMaken, there was a single measles vaccine available in the United States up until 2009. But government officials changed that through regulation, possibly after heavy lobbying from Merck.

The logic then was that “if parents are given choices,” McMaken wrote, “some of them might receive only partial vaccinations, based on individual assessments of risk.” Reducing the options, it seemed, would reduce the risk as the whole country would then be coerced into adopting the all-or-nothing approach. The reality is that this very policy backfired, as the country is now dealing with more cases of children infected with measles.

If the media, the healthcare community, and government were honest, they would address this concern by pushing lawmakers to undo the heavy regulatory mess that created this crisis in the first place.

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