Need for vaccines transcends politics

  • Ayden Butler, an 8th grader at Harris Middle School, receives a flu vaccine from registered nurse Heidi Killough as San Antonio health officials celebrate the first-ever Texas Influenza Awareness Day on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Vaccines must not be used as a political football. Photo: BOB OWEN /San Antonio Express-News / © 2012 San Antonio Express-News

Disease does not care if you are a Democrat or Republican. Cancer does not care whether you voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Influenza has no concern about whether you showed up to vote in the March primary election in Texas. As far as whooping cough is concerned, you can watch whichever cable news and reach whichever websites you choose.

The fight to stop disease must be nonpartisan and nonpolitical. People of all political stripes united to stop polio in its tracks. In the past, Americans understood that critical lifesaving tools such as vaccines are part of our national responsibility. Just as our soldiers are fully vaccinated before they go to war, we citizens on the homefront have, in the past, done our part to protect the public health and national security.

The lifesaving power of vaccines should transcend politics. Unfortunately, vaccines entered the political discourse during the 2018 election season. Attacks on public officials who support vaccines are attacks on a building block of public health. Just as politicians should support clean drinking water and flood prevention, they should support vaccination as a proven measure to prevent disease.

Vaccines are victims of their own success. Americans may not appreciate the power of vaccines because fewer and fewer of us have seen diseases like polio firsthand. If you do not personally know someone who has suffered or died from a vaccine-preventable disease, it might be tempting to say vaccines are unnecessary in order to score easy political points.

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