Anti-vaxxers are social parasites

Close up Red ant killing bite and drag black ant to eat.

Anti-vaxxers preen to themselves and each other that they are educated, empowered protectors of their children’s well being. They’re not; they are social parasites.

I’ve written before about the fact that privilege is the sine qua non of the contemporary anti-vax movement. Vaccine preventable diseases have to become rare before it is possible to imagine that the “risks” of vaccines outweigh the risks of diseases themselves.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Social parasites take their share of  the benefits of society while refusing to shoulder their share of the burdens.[/pullquote]

Furthermore, anti-vax is unethical. It only becomes a realistic option in societies where most parents behave morally and follow the admonition to get their children vaccinated. Most people, understanding the importance herd immunity, vaccinate their children. In contrast anti-vaxxers assume that they will be protected from diseases like measles because everyone else is vaccinating, and — privileged as they are — they imagine they are entitled to keep their own children unvaccinated.

In other words, they are social parasites.

Social parasitism is a phenomenon that occurs among social insects.

Social parasitism is a condition where a parasitizing ant species depends upon the labour provided by a host ant species within the context of a mixed-species colony.

They are the freeloaders of the insect world:

…Social parasite species evolve from seemingly typical, social species but have evolved mechanisms which shortcut the usual social formalities like building your own nest and raising your own brood. In this sense, they are receiving all of the benefits of social organisation while giving little in the form of social costs…

Among humans:

Social parasitism is a pejorative that is leveled against a group or class which is considered to be detrimental to society. The term comes from the ancient Greek παράσιτος (parásitos), “one who lives at another’s expense, person who eats at the table of another,” used to label the social offender.

Anti-vaxxers are most certainly detrimental to society as demonstrated by the recent resurgence of vaccine preventable diseases that had become extremely rare. Anti-vaxxers and their children survive and thrive at the expense of others mothers’ children. How? Children who are younger, more fragile and less immune competent (due to chemotherapy or immunologic disease) are both more likely to be susceptible to vaccine preventable diseases and less likely to recover from them.

Imagine an ancient agrarian community facing famine restricting each individual to only two meals a day in order to extend the food supply as long as possible before the next harvest. Now imagine that a few individuals take enough food from the community supply in order to provide their own children with three meals a day. Not only will the food for the whole community run out earlier, but when the whole town is starving, it is the weakest among them who will succumb long before those who took more than their share. Those who took extra (and their children) will survive at the expense of the rest of the community. That makes them social parasites.

Immunity to disease, like a communal food supply, is a benefit that is only possible within a community. The ancient agrarian community pooled their food to maximize the survival of everyone, even the young and the weak who could never have fought for a fair share on their own. As long as you are dependent on the benefits of that society (that’s what you are doing if you eat from the communal supply), you must contribute to preserving that supply by taking only what everyone else is taking. Otherwise you are a social parasite.

Contemporary society “pools” immunity in order to maximize the survival of everyone, even the young and the weak. As long as you are dependent on the benefits of that society (and you are if your children face minimal risk because other children are vaccinated), you must contribute to preserving that supply by having your own children vaccinated. Otherwise you are a social parasite.

Notice that it doesn’t matter whether or not vaccination has risks (there is a real, but tiny risk of brain damage or death) or what those risks are (autism, autoimmune diseases, vaccine “injuries” or whatever non-existent risks you choose to imagine). Arcane discussions about the scientific literature are irrelevant. Regardless of the risks, everyone must share them, just as in the case of the dwindling food supply. Insisting that you don’t have to vaccinate your children because you are afraid vaccines raise the risk autism is like insisting that you can take more than your share from the communal food supply because two meals a day instead of three raises the risks of malnutrition. It doesn’t matter even if it’s true.

Once you choose to share the communal benefits of society, you are morally obligated to share the burdens as well. Otherwise, you are a social parasite and the community will have a right — indeed an obligation — to punish you for putting the entire community, particularly the young and the weak, at risk.