Gates' next act is to step into vaccine controversy

If we can prevent a dread disease in childhood, should we, even at some risk to all children? And who decides whether that risk will be taken? Bill Gates?

Bill Gates surprised, 2005, from Mindfully.orgHere comes another vaccine controversy. (Picture from Mindfully.org.)

It's coming because there is yet-another vaccine doctors have shown works, and which the CDC is now recommending to children.

The new vaccine protects against rotavirus, a food-borne bug which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in little kids. In little kids that can be deadly.

The CDC says this year's rotavirus season has been much milder than normal, and started later, thanks to a new vaccine.

Better yet that new vaccine, RotaTeq from Merck, now has a competitor, called Rotarix, from Glaxo. The Merck vaccine has to be taken three times, the Glaxo vaccine twice. Both work.

But I can hear the complaints already. What if they actually make my kid sick? How dare you demand I give more medicine to my kids! Etc. etc. etc. (Oh, and this one is recommended for very small infants, starting as small as two months.)

To return to our favorite subject of this week, the retiring Mr. Gates, this fight may make the battles at Microsoft look like child's play.

The Gates Foundation is a big backer of the GAVI Alliance, which is working to extend the western standard of childhood immunization worldwide. The Gates Foundation is also a big backer of the search for new vaccines.

As we have seen with the HPV vaccine controversy, these arguments go far beyond science, into morality and politics, into emotion and issues of control.

If we can prevent a dread disease in childhood, should we, even at some risk to all children? And who decides whether that risk will be taken? Bill Gates?

If a vaccine is used universally a disease might disappear. But that may mean forcing people against their will, or the dictates of their religion, into doing something.

Their protection may keep a disease alive. Or it may prevent another outcome, such as autism.

This is what Bill Gates is stepping into, with his eyes wide open. Being called a Borg may be nothing next to being called Big Brother.

No wonder he's planning on spending one day a week back at the office. He needs the rest.

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