Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Invulnerability: Impossibility or Synonymous Reality? (pt. I)
"No mortal can ever be made invulnerable." True? What do you see as the important implications of this for the issue of vaccination as public health policy?
If, by definition, invulnerability is predicated upon it being impossible to harm or to damage an individual, then it doesn’t take much more provocation to agree with the sentiment that “no mortal can ever be made invulnerable”. Even half-deity little godlings can’t be made without a weak spot, as Eula Biss reminded us with her inclusion of the Achilles myth in her On Immunity. Invulnerability is precisely that: a myth.
The possibility of invulnerability in terms of the average human being begins and dies with anatomy, ironically enough. As we age, our bodies decline, as follows natural life progression. This makes us weaker, more susceptible to disease, injury, and every other danger daily life has to offer.
Directly antithetical to the idea of invulnerability.
And yet, even in our prime, even at our fittest, by steadfast biological dictation, we are all still flesh and bone. Flesh and bone, which are susceptible to disease, to damage, to death, etc.
At the risk of repetition: by the nature of our anatomical structure, no mortal can ever be made invulnerable.
But that is not to say that susceptibility and immunity are to be entirely thrown out the window simply because the “impervious” synonymity of our definition has been trashed. Susceptibility to and immunity to disease are controllable, if anything can so be defined in a system as unpredictable as that of the human anatomy. This is to say, in terms of vaccination, some of the dangers which prevent The Invulnerable Human Being from coming into existence can be taken out of the equation.
To further explain, as might be the glaring, obvious point of this discourse, if smallpox is indicated as a potential harm, or threat, to the human race, and a vaccine is developed to prevent smallpox, in a world of mandatory vaccinations, the apparent “eradication” of that particular strain of smallpox would be seen. This is not to say that the smallpox disease would cease to exist, in fact, it might go through some viral evolution, and recur stronger than ever years down the road. And yet, for a time, the prevention factor of immunology and immunization would have not only lead to a decrease in smallpox-related deaths, but also founded a shared “herd immunity”, and a sense of categorized invulnerability (to that particular virus, of course).
This, then is where significance comes to bear in terms of public health policy. The foundation of communal immunity is predicated upon the participation of the entire community, for the health and safety of individual. Invulnerability, if impossible by mortal standards, is still ideologically a goal and once again can be accomplished almost categorically. That is, we might not be able to be invulnerable to (immune to, insusceptible to…) even half the things which pose danger to us as flesh and blood, but arguments against preventing what we can through immunization (beyond those made on the grounds of actual health risk/danger to the individual receiving the vaccination), are arguments made for a step away from communal health and safety.
Part II will continue address the broader effects and implications of attitudes of impossibility when regarding public immunity and apparent "invulnerability".