GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Private Rights And the Public Good


Some people seem so wrapped up in their private rights these days they overlook the fact that the Public Good can override personal beliefs.

For example – Do you have a right to decide what goes into your body by way of medical treatment ?


Except where refusal of medical treatment would endanger the well- being and lives of others in our community – as in the case passing on an infectious diseases.

For example – The Health (Infectious and Notifiable Diseases Regulations 1966) at para 20 states:

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“The Medical Officer of Health may at any time—
(a)require any person who in his opinion has been recently exposed to the infection of smallpox to be forthwith vaccinated or revaccinated, or, if the person is a child, may require the parents or guardians to have such child forthwith vaccinated or revaccinated.”

Why did our law makers decide such innoculations should be compulsory? Because it has proved to be an effective way of completely getting rid of at least a couple of diseases out of our country.

Most people in New Zealand would not remember a time when Polio (poliomyelitis) was rampant throughout Aotearoa .

It is an acute viral disease affecting the spinal cord and nervous system that typically a disease of children and young people . It can cause partial or complete paralysis of limbs or the entire body. If patients survived they often had to wear calipers and use crutches for the rest of their lives so they could walk. (See photo above)

Baby boomers who went to school in New Zealand will remember the compulsory inoculations against polio when we all lined up to get the jab. As a result Polio has disappeared from our country.

So the irony is that today’s ant- vaxxers are only free from the agony of terrible diseases such Smallpox and Polio, because previous generations were compulsorily innoculated.

So enough with the civil rights arguments.

When it comes to infectious diseases ( of which Measles is one) the rights of others quite rightly supercede your own individual beliefs – for the Public Good.

PS. To every rule there are always exceptions. If you or your child are in a rare category where innoculation would cause severe risk to life, this is something you should discuss with your doctor and The Medical Officer Of Health. My understanding is that if everyone else (who is a healthy candidate) is innoculated then you and/or your child is less likely to catch the infection in question.

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. Some parents have a fear of harm befalling heir child.
    There are cases where inoculation has resulted in life long handicap and trauma.
    With no precondition detected by the family doctor and the child presented as an outgoing healthy robust 5 year old.
    After the vaccination induced reaction the child was lucky to survive and remained mentally handicapped thereafter.
    I have had to care for that child so lets not hide that it can happen.
    No doubt such a tragedy is rare but real

  2. Most of the anti vaxers would not have had school friends with calipers on their legs due to polio . In some African countries mothers walk miles to get their children vaccinated but some of our parents are too lazy to walk down the road for a FREE shot.

  3. Three replies that don’t really deal with the primacy of mass immunisation to defeat the viruses that can bring down large numbers with illness that can kill or have lasting side effects.

    John W I hope that you have received extra assistance and financial support to assist you with your required extra care. A tiny percentage of people will suffer bad effects from good vaccine. If it was bad vaccine the instigators of it should be sued and the money distributed to the victims, as with the thalidomide victims. I know a cultish couple who are not going to let their child mix with other children from the ungodly and they may choose not to vaccinate. I feel sorry for the isolated child though.

    Rosemary mentions ‘Sister’ Kenny. I read about her some years ago and this is from memory as I haven’t time to read the wikipedia entry thanks Rosemary. IIRR she spoke up for aborigine children who weren’t doing well after the vaccines. I think she observed that some were sick or ill-nourished when given the innoculation and it made them sicker. Also she didn’t think it was good to keep the legs immobile, which often left children crippled. She kept exercising the limbs to keep them stretched and it sopped them being deformed. But sof course she did not have the authority of accepted medical findings behind her. But that is different from anti-vaxxers believing every bit of misinformation around. There are risks, often unexpected but we try our best to protect against them.

    And talking about people being lazy because they don’t go to free clinics. This is the approach of the person who dislikes considering others’ wellbeing, and would not be capable of bringing up children himself. It sounds like a man’s irritation. Social anthropology is what we should all be taught in the third form, Year X?

    I found a USA story about a ‘district nurse’ Sue Barton, there from the 1930’s? The visiting health nurse was such a boon to the lower income community, and later the rural community where she lived and worked.* Why can’t we have a small bus going to the suburbs and schools, a couple of nurses, one also driving. It would be a case of being the people’s friend and helping, instead of the service provider that the family have to travel to which they probably can’t afford, at a time when they have been ordered to be at work etc. Get real you left Labour government, or are you Righties in disguise?

    *There are two Sue Bartons listed on Trademe that are good buys which might provide some impetus to renew that arrangement here. Listing #: 2294764925 and Listing #: 2298588615.
    Outstanding nursing series, written by accomplished nursing professional, Helen Dore Boylston. The Sue Barton 7 Book Set includes: Sue Barton, Student Nurse; Sue Barton, Senior Nurse; Sue Barton, Visiting Nurse; Sue Barton, Rural Nurse; Sue Barton, Superintendent of Nurses; Sue Barton, Neighborhood Nurse; Sue Barton, Staff Nurse. A seven volume story that follows the life of vivacious, red-headed Sue Barton through her exhilarating training and career as a nurse. Sue’s humor and great heart see her through the rigors of her profession as well as the trials of her personal life. Her determined struggle to maintain her independence gives her the strength to weather the occasionally…Amazon

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