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Sydney Singer: “Should Vaccinations Be Mandatory in Hawaii?”

On Wednesday, November 18, the Hawaii County Council will again consider Resolution 237-09, providing exemptions from vaccinations. At the core of this resolution opposing mandatory vaccinations is a deep sense of distrust — distrust of Federal and State governments that may want to impose their will on the public, as well as distrust of the pharmaceutical industry and its vaccination products and research.

Distrust is a major social disease of our time. The root cause is that we are a society that puts money before people. This is as true for medicine as it is for politics. Years of abuse of the sacred trust the people place in their leaders has lead to our current state of distrust.

It seems strange that the County Council is addressing the issue of mandatory vaccinations, which is typically a federal and state government concern. However, it makes sense when you consider that this is the smallest governmental body in our system. It consists of councilmembers who are our neighbors and friends. This makes the County Council the most accessible and responsive to our individual concerns.

So I understand why this resolution is being brought to the County Council. And I also understand why it is important that the Council support this resolution. The people need some assurances that they are being heard, that they can trust government at least on this local level.

The County Council may be small, and its decisions may seem trivial on the state and national levels. But it is the closest the government ever gets to hearing and responding to the voice of the people. In this sense, the County Council is the most important governmental body we have. It is here that our trust in government and authority can be mended.

As for the issue of getting vaccinated against disease, flu or otherwise, all medical treatment should be at the discretion of the individual. It is our most basic freedom to make decisions about what goes into our bodies.

However, the government does serve a legitimate function in preventing and controlling infectious disease epidemics. We live in a time when few, if any, of us experienced the horrors of smallpox, polio, Bubonic plague, and other killer diseases. Quarantine is a common practice to stop the spread of these diseases. I have also been told by military personnel of villages in Africa being bombed to stop the spread of Ebola virus.

Vaccination is another method for controlling some diseases.

While vaccines all have potential adverse side effects and vaccination programs always result in some unintended injuries and even deaths, public health officials consider these costs worth the benefits. Public health officials consider society as a whole. People, to them, are statistics. And like generals conducting a war, these healthcare warriors fighting an infectious disease are willing to accept civilian casualties if it means winning the war, which, to them, means most of the public survives the epidemic.

To those individuals and their families who become the casualties of that war, however, the cost is dear, sometimes too dear for them to accept. Vaccinations may help society as a whole, but it could harm some individuals who otherwise may have survived.

This is the conflict between public healthcare and private healthcare. Our government officials focus on society as a whole, while we the people focus on ourselves and our families. Unfortunately, what is good for the whole may not be good for us as individuals, and vice versa.

As a society based on individual freedom and an inalienable right to life and liberty, the thought of forced vaccinations is abhorrent. That is why current laws have respected the right of individuals to refuse vaccinations. However, if someone spreads a deadly disease to others, we no longer can be regarded as individuals, but as members of a social group. At that point, what’s good for the group could outweigh the choices of any one individual.

Again, this abrogation of individual freedom is only justified in extreme life-threatening situations. At those times, quarantine and vaccination are appropriate. We must accept some loss of personal freedom when at war, whether that enemy is human or microbial.

That is why we need to trust our leaders. When they declare war, they take away some of our freedom. However, this is a power that can, and has been, abused. We no longer trust our leaders to give us the full, honest story.

When is it time to declare a health emergency and declare war on a disease? The answer to that depends on your point of view. To the drug industry, government purchases of vaccine and treatment drugs is an economic boon. And given the fact that the current swine flu epidemic is no more deadly than the regular flu, the worldwide rush for vaccines seems more like an economic stimulus plan for the pharmaceutical industry than anything else. However, people will die from the swine flu, and from the seasonal flu. Does that make this an emergency, worthy of forced vaccinations or quarantine?

I propose the following answer. If people are debating the severity of a communicable disease, then it is not severe enough to warrant intrusion into personal freedom with mandatory vaccines or quarantine. If people were dying in the streets from a new plague, and everyone was afraid to go outside for fear of contracting it, then there would be no debate. The war would be real, and people would know it and comply with the strategies used to fight it.

I do not believe this is a time for such a war. And since the state and federal governments are not forcing this swine flu vaccine on the public, clearly they agree.

Why, then, vote to support this resolution? It is because it is a resolution to respect the rights of the people to be individuals, and not some statistic of a public health official. As a resolution, it has the weight of conscience, not law. But it is this conscience of respect for individuals that needs to be reaffirmed. It will not impair the ability of state and federal health officials to protect us in times of war. It will just tell the authorities that we care about our individual freedom, and that we will not easily give up our personal sovereignty without just cause.

Sydney Ross Singer, Medical Anthropologist,
Director, Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease
P.O. Box 1880, Pahoa, Hawaii 96778

Puna Community Medical Center Seeing Rise in Flu-Like Illnesses… Swine Flu?

Two weeks ago I mentioned a possible Swine Flu exposure at Montessori Schools in Pahoa.

The following was posted today on Punaweb by Dan Domizio of the Puna Community Medical Center.

Aloha!

In the past 3 weeks, we have seen many adults and children with a “FLU-LIKE” illness with the following characteristics; rapid onset, high fever (ADULTS with temps of 103 and 104!); adults more knocked down than children; gradual waning of temp (over 2-3-4 days) to “low grade”; shifting to more typical picture of a cold with runny nose and cough. Some folks have had nausea, some with vomiting, gradually shifting to loose stools or frank diarrhea for a day or so.

MOST folks go through the entire process in 7-10 days; back to school or work in 3-4 days. NO SPECIFIC TREATMENT (antibiotic) is available to stop this process; you deal with the headache and fever, with the cold symptoms and the cough, you rest, eat lightly, drink a lot of water or tea or juice, and get well. Only people with asthma, or smokers, have needed additional management.

Could this be H1N1 (“swine flu”)? Yes, it could be, but that does not change anything about how it is managed. Influenza is viral and self limited; only those with previous respiratory disease, the frail elderly, pregnant women, and infants are at increased risk of SECONDARY problems.

Dan

Possible Swine Flu Exposure of Student Attending Montessori School?

My son is attending Montessori Pre-School in Pahoa, and I was notified by one of the teachers this morning of a “POSSIBLE UNCONFIRMED” case of a student that may have been exposed to the “Swine Flu” last week when my son was in Disneyland.

There were only a couple students attending school today out of more then thirty.  The teacher has told me that the student has recovered.

Other parents have apparently kept their children home from school today… so in being safe rather then sorry… I too am keeping my son home today.

I don’t want to cause any panic… and I want to make sure I’m real clear that there has been “NO CONFIRMATION” that it was swine flu.

When the teacher herself said the words and was taking the temperature of all students arriving  and asking questions such as was anyone sick in the family or household  and how was our traveling on the airplanes… etc. , that  was enough to tell me I wasn’t going to even risk it.

On a side note… this could happen at any school any place in America right now.

I have the upmost respect for the Staff and Faculty of Montessori Country  Schools and will always continually recommend it to any parent asking about a great pre-school on the Big Island.

I truly feel it is the best Pre-School on the Island.

Stop That Ship!

pacific-dawn

Five passengers on board the cruise ship Pacific Dawn are in isolation because of swine flu as the vessel is on a stop-over in the French Polynesian capital, Papeete.

The health ministry says the five have been given Tamiflu as have an unspecified number of other people who were in close contact with the five.

The ship is carrying nearly 2,000 passengers and almost 900 crew.

It arrived from Samoa and will sail to Bora Bora before continuing its voyage to Hawaii and California.

Meanwhile, the government in New Caledonia says three swine flu cases have been detected among people who have not travelled abroad or been in contact with people believed to have the infection.

This comes as the total number of swine flu sufferers in the territory has risen to 46 after the first case was recorded three weeks ago.

Swine flu fears have prompted one small island mayor to ban cruise ships from Australia which has thousands of swine flu cases.

http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=47783

This cruise ship comes to the Big Island.

Hilo – Hawaii

Due to it’s wide variety of terrain, vegetation, climate and attractions, many visitors find Hawaii the most interesting of all the islands. Called the Big Island, it is more than 4,000 square miles in size (twice the size of the other Hawaiian Islands combined) and, at 13, 796 feet, Mauna Kea is the highest point in the entire Pacific Basin. Hilo is the largest town on Hawaii and the countryseat.

General Information

  • The ship docks alongside at Pier 1 or Pier 3.
  • Local Standard Time: GMT – 10 hrs (PST – 2 hrs)


  • Point of Interest: Rainbow Falls, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in Volcanoes National Park, Kaumana Cave, Lyman House Memorial Museum, the Naha Stone, University of Hawaii, Nani Maui Gardens, Liliuokalani Park, Japanese Cultural Center, Onekahakaha Beach Park, Hawaii Tropical Gardens
  • Two Cases Swine Flu Confirmed on Big Island

    …The two cases that live on the island of Hawai‘i are school-aged children that are not attending school at this time. One acquired their illness while traveling in another state, the other had contact with a confirmed case…

    More Here

    1900 Passengers Quarantined on Cruise Ship in Australia that Departed from Hawaii Because of Influenza-Like Illness

    A 15-year-old Melbourne boy is Australia’s latest swine flu case but authorities say the outbreak here is “fairly mild” compared to overseas.

    As the number of Australian cases rose to 14, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd defended the government’s decision to upgrade the alert level to containment stage from delay.

    Passengers on a cruise ship berthed in Sydney were quarantined for more than five hours on Saturday as they underwent checks after reporting cases of influenza-like illness.

    NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said four passengers were found to have mild influenza-like symptoms and their test results were expected overnight.

    The 1,943 passengers and 900 crew on board the Dawn Princess, which arrived from Hawaii, have now disembarked the ship…

    More Here

    I Do Not Have Swine Flu!

    Hat tip to Leslie Lang for the following article she noticed:

    The first confirmed death from the recent swine flu epidemic in Mexico, Maria Adela Gutierrez (English translation), worked as a door-to-door census taker for the tax board according to Mexican officials. She is not the original source of the infection, according to this article in the LA Times, but some local news reports indicated that she had infected as many as 20 people, as well as her husband and children. Martin Vazquez Villaneuva, the regional health secretary in Oaxaca, has denied these reports, according to the LA Times article.

    Hawaii is the US Hotspot for the Flu

    With the world on swine flu watch, a number of online maps are tracking the spread of the disease. The Google Maps Mania blog rounds up some of the best and most creative efforts.

    One of the earliest is this user-generated Google map by “Niman”, which plots suspected,  confirmed or probable, and negative incidences (click image below to see full-screen, real-time version).

    Niman\'s N1H1 Google map (grab taken 28 April)

    This HealthMap displays the latest information on its swine flu map with markers co-ordinated according to the “heat” – encompassing recentness and size – of the outbreak.

    The map pulls in information from a number of sources, including news reports and official alerts, and therefore markers may not necessarily represent a confirmed outbreak – worth clicking through the links before you panic.  See also the general HealthMap for info on swine flu plus a variety of other diseases.

    Google also maps flu trends in the USA – based on where people are searching for flu-related terms. The reasoning goes that, if people feel ill, they tend to head for the internet for advice.

    The search company reckons its data both corresponds with official tracking methods, and can scoop them by a fortnight, as it updates more quickly. At time of writing, Google trends suggests tropical Hawaii is the US-flu hotspot – something which has yet to translate into a rash of swine flu cases. The official Centres for Disease Control and Prevention website has official data on US swine flu cases – worth reading in conjunction with user-generated content for the most rounded picture.