Vaccines’ community value outweighs one doctor’s religion

Monday, August 31st, 2020 at 12:02am

In regards to Dr. Schmedes’ opinion on vaccinations (Aug. 28 Journal). Rep. Schmedes, R-Tijeras, was given a sufficient place to express his opinion. He spoke as a physician. I also am a physician. And we have interesting and important differences of opinion.

He claims freedom must allow each of us to risk the rest of the community for the sake of personal freedom. We have seen the result of that freedom in the spread of measles in the United States. Religious communities that claim freedom of religion not to vaccinate are not restricted from being in the greater community. The rest of us are put at risk, including children with impaired immunity due to illness or cancer treatment.

He believes whole-heartedly in personal freedom – until it comes to someone else wanting that same freedom. He opposed the Death with Dignity legislation that allows a competent adult to request medication to end life comfortably. He opposed removing an old abortion restriction law because his religion does not agree with abortion. It seems that he is for personal freedom for himself but not for anyone who does not agree with him.

He does not speak for the medical community. Neither do I. However, he is the outlier and is speaking with no authority. Public health has too often been neglected in favor of private, personal health care. We are now experiencing what that deficiency brings. Health care disparities spotlight where we have neglected our population. Vaccinations have saved millions of lives from death and disability. Born before the polio vaccine, I remember the fear as polio was identified in a child with whom I was in contact. And I remember the incredible relief we felt, standing in line for our free polio vaccine, delivered to us in tiny paper cups containing a pink liquid and a small sugar cube. Compare this to the fear-mongering coming from Schmedes and others who put their personal religious beliefs out as a requirement for the rest of us.

Public health physicians and researchers have the knowledge and expertise we need now – not an ear, nose and throat doctor who speaks from his religious point of view. Certainly we want a vaccine to be tested and vetted properly before it is disseminated. The public health community wants that as well. It was public health that eradicated small pox, not a surgeon with knowledge limited to his specialty. It was public health that has allowed summer to be a time of joyful swimming instead of the fearful time of my childhood.

I hope we put our trust in the public health community for issues regarding this pandemic. And I also hope that we allow personal freedom to include a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body and anyone the right to request aid in dying. My personal freedom in these affects me and not the greater community. Dr. Schmedes’ personal freedom endangers the whole community.