In an editorial titled “Reckless Rejection of the Measles Vaccine,” the Times argues that it is “shockingly irresponsible” for “misguided parents to put other children and adults at risk of catching measles from their unvaccinated children. Public officials and pediatricians need to restrict where unvaccinated children are allowed to go if the parents refuse to do so.” (NYT 2/3/15) The total number of people infected this year is 102 in the 14 states that have reported outbreaks.
Compare this to the Times’ attitude towards quarantining health care workers returning from ebola-stricken countries in Africa. In that case, the individual’s rights trumped the rights of other children and adults who might have come in contact with someone incubating and spreading a potentially fatal disease. And compare the concern for public safety with the information regarding HIV/AIDS a few years back. In 2008, the Times reported that HIV was spreading in NYC at three times the national rate. 4,762 New Yorkers contracted it in 2006, with gay minority men leading the population at risk; for the population under 30, 77% were Black or Hispanic (NYT 8/27/08). Yet, a few years later, the Times editorial urges that Gay Men Should Be Allowed to Give Blood (11/27/14) They protest that the rules governing blood donations date back to the 1980’s when little was understood about how the virus spreads. Although it is true that significant progress has been made in managing HIV, there is as yet, no cure for the virus. The Times’ objection to the F.D.A’s consideration of a one-year deferral instead of a total ban is that it stigmatizes gay men as well as limiting the pool of donors.
The Times is not a bit worried about stigmatizing parents who want to control their children’s health themselves as opposed to giving in to government dictates which often get reversed after a period of time. In that case, it demands government intervention to protect society at large. Despite everything that is known about the transmission of HIV, there remains the nagging statistic that almost 5,000 New Yorkers got it in 2006, mostly gay males through unprotected sex. There is no doubt that the safest way to protect society against the spread of this virus through blood is to eliminate donations from the highest risk population, yet in this case, the Times insists that other issues pertaining to individual rights and non-discrimination take precedence. This cognitive dissonance is what happens when politics interferes with public health policy - an all too common occurrence in the New York Times.
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