No vaccinations? When vaccines annually prevent six million deaths? Skip to content

No vaccinations? When vaccines annually prevent six million deaths?

So why is Typhoid Thomas Massie so opposed to them?

4 min read

Ever hear of Typhoid Mary? How about Typhoid Tommy?

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-SomewhereOrOtherLewisCounty) started a kerfuffle, as his attention-seeking-self often does, this week on the X social media site, declaring quite simply and boldly, “I’m against all vaccine mandates.”

Now, you may have thought upon reading this communique that the Wonder Boy here was referring exclusively to adults, which would be bad enough given the dangers that would be inherent in casually addressing a worldwide plague. It’s certainly not conceivable, even with someone of the Whiz Kid’s ilk, that a serious person might maintain school-age children shouldn’t be required to get shots that protect them — and others — from potentially deadly diseases like measles, smallpox, and the like.


Not so fast. You have no idea who you’re dealing with here.

Massie went on in his post to explain that yes, indeed, he opposed requiring school kids to get their usual rounds of inoculations, asserting that the practice was “predicated on lies.”

“Also, if you concede that the government can force a needle into your child as a condition of interacting with society, what won’t you concede?”

Now, before we get into the nitty-gritty about how vaccines have saved millions, perhaps billions, of lives since Edward Jenner created the smallpox vaccine in 1798, let’s note that this isn’t just a kooky, one-off note being played by our boy. He has regularly been hopping aboard the anti-vax bandwagon for years. In 2023 he characterized mandates as “unscientific and immoral.”

At one point, in a tweet posted on the X (formerly Twitter), Massie compared the card that folks carried to verify they had received their anti-COVID shots earlier this decade to the tattoos cut into the wrists of those condemned to death camps in the Holocaust. A photo attached to the post, displaying a wrist with an Auschwitz tattoo, carried the legend, “If you have to carry a card on you to gain access to a restaurant, venue, or an event in your own country … that’s no longer a free country.”

Typhoid Tommy removed that post but you get his point.

Massie, as chair of the House Subcommittee on the Administrative State, has remained vocal about his opposition to COVID-19 inoculation mandates. More recently, he joined with another winner, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to file legislation threatening to subpoena the Centers for Disease Control for records related to the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The case for mandates, certainly in the schools, is unequivocal: diseases spread in close-quarter classrooms, and these diseases could result in deaths. Therefore states, according to the Supreme Court, have the authority to impose vaccine mandates under their general police powers. Writing for the majority in a 1905 case out of Massachusetts, Justice John Marshall Harlan, a great Kentuckian from Boyle County, said, “It is for the legislature, and not for the courts, to determine in the first instance whether vaccination is or is not the best mode for the prevention of smallpox and the protection of the public health.”

A later case arrived at the same conclusion when, writing for the majority in 1922, Justice Louis Brandeis, another great Kentuckian, from Louisville out of Male High School, determined that San Antonio could require children to get a smallpox vaccine to enter school.

So you can side with two of the greatest to ever hale from the Commonwealth, Harlan and Brandeis – or Tom Massie, who apparently finds their conclusions “unscientific and immoral.”

You choose.

Those decisions carried through to recent times. In 2021, the high court declined to hear a case brought by eight students against Indiana University after the school refused to let them attend classes without getting their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Kentucky, apparently to Massie’s dismay, appears right in step. In 2021, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 8, which gives the Cabinet for Health and Family Services the authority to require the vaccination “of all persons within the area of epidemic, against the disease responsible for such epidemic.”

State law also requires all residents and employees of long-term health care facilities to receive vaccinations for pneumococcal disease and influenza. There are exemptions in these instances based on medical and religious grounds.

Kentucky also has regulations requiring immunizations for children in childcare and school, for good reason — children are traditionally in close contact with others during the school day and the shots assure potentially lethal communicable diseases doesn’t spread. Pew Research reports The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends routine vaccination against 16 diseases from birth through age 18.

Typically, children who haven’t received the required shots for their age are prohibited from attending school or enrolling in childcare programs, with the usual exceptions.

The authority to impose widespread vaccination mandates on the federal level is left to Congress. In September 2021, President Biden sought, through executive orders, to effectively mandate that a large segment of the nation’s workforce, including those working for companies with more than 100 employees, get COVID-19 shots. More than 100 million people would have been affected under the plan but the Supreme Court ultimately overturned many of the dictates, declaring that Biden’s orders exceeded congressional authority. It did, however, let stand a mandate for healthcare workers.

Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, Dr. Stanley Plotkin, an American physician who works as a consultant to vaccine manufacturers, has written that the impact of vaccination on the health of the world’s peoples is hard to exaggerate.

“The development of safe and efficacious vaccination against diseases that cause substantial morbidity and mortality has been one of the foremost scientific advances of the 21st century,” he wrote. “Vaccination, along with sanitation and clean drinking water, are public health interventions that are undeniably responsible for improved health outcomes globally.”

It is estimated, Plotkin wrote, that vaccines annually prevent 6 million deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases.

“By 2055, the earth’s population is estimated to reach almost 10 billion, a feat that in part is due to effective vaccines that prevent disease and prolong life expectancy across all continents.”

Plotkin said there remains work to be done to ensure the administration of vaccines to all populations “in particular those which are difficult to reach, including those skeptical about their protective value…”

Like our boy Massie.


Written by Bill Straub, a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.
Cross-posted from the NKY Tribune.

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The NKyTribune is a publication of the KY Center for Public Service Journalism. We are a nonpartisan, independent news organization that produces journalism in the public interest for a place we love.