Maybe there shouldn’t be a religious exemption to vaccinations.

I’ve written on vaccination before, and, no surprise, raised no small amount of ire each time. Recently, I’ve been wondering about the “religious exemption” that many parents abuse in order to excuse their kids from vaccines. Aside from the casual abuse of the idea of religious freedom (here expanded to “something I don’t believe in”), avoiding vaccinations means essentially drafting off of those who have them. Why doesn’t your unvaccinated kid get measles, mumps, rubella, diptheria, pertussis, or polio? Because those diseases have been largely eradicated through vaccination.

But that’s not the same as the disease being gone altogether. I can tell you that the polio virus is a plane ride away. Measles and pertussis are even closer than that.

I’m only kind of jesting when I say that those who vehemently oppose vaccines ought to test their convictions by spending a few weeks with their kids in a remote village in, oh, Rwanda, where polio, measles, rubella, typhoid, meningitis, and yellow fever — all vaccine-preventable — are still endemic.

As I wrote in a recent post at Religion News Service,

Someone may object that the government has no right to tell anyone to get an injection at all. To which I can only say, if that’s the kind of society you’d like to have, you can certainly find places in this world that will accommodate you, such as the country in which I currently live. The only problem? Without the herd immunity afforded you by living in a population that’s mostly vaccinated, you’d be at significant risk for contracting measles, typhoid, polio, yellow fever and other diseases largely conquered in the US…thanks, in no small part, to vaccines.

That might be the truer test of faith and convictions.

{see also my friend Ellen’s piece on the “fetal cell” objection to vaccinations}

Buffy the Infectious Disease Slayer

The anti-vaccination thing–and resulting resurgence of previously near-eradicated diseases–has gotten so out of control that, apparently, Sarah Michelle Gellar is encouraging people to get vaccinated. As I’ve written before, I’m a pretty big fan of vaccines. It doesn’t hurt that each time I go to town I see the shriveled and useless limbs of polio survivors who beg for a living.

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There is a fantastic piece in the New Republic by Julia Ioffe:

Here is a very small taste:

It would be an understatement to say that pertussis and other formerly conquered childhood diseases like measles and mumps are making a resurgence. Pertussis, specifically, has come roaring back. From 2011 to 2012, reported pertussis incidences rose more than threefold in 21 states. (And that’s just reported cases. Since we’re not primed to be on the look-out for it, many people may simply not realize they have it.) In 2012, the CDC said that the number of pertussis cases was higher than at any point in 50 years. That year, Washington state declared an epidemic; this year, Texas did, too. Washington, D.C. has also seen a dramatic increase. This fall, Cincinnati reported a 283 percent increase in pertussis. It’s even gotten to the point that pertussis has become a minor celebrity cause: NASCAR hero Jeff Gordon and Sarah Michelle Gellar are now encouraging people to get vaccinated.

How responsible are these non-vaccinating parents for my pertussis? Very. A study recently published in the journal Pediatrics indicated that outbreaks of these antediluvian diseases clustered where parents filed non-medical exemptions—that is, where parents decided not to vaccinate their kids because of their personal beliefs. The study found that areas with high concentrations of conscientious objectors were 2.5 times more likely to have an outbreak of pertussis. (To clarify: I was vaccinated against pertussis as a child, but the vaccine wears off by adulthood, which, until recently, was rarely a problem because the disease wasn’t running rampant because of people not vaccinating their kids.)

So thanks a lot, anti-vaccine parents. You took an ethical stand against big pharma and the autism your baby was not going to get anyway, and, by doing so, killed some babies and gave me, an otherwise healthy 31-year-old woman, the whooping cough in the year 2013. I understand your wanting to raise your own children as you see fit, science be damned, but you’re selfishly jeopardizing more than your own children. Carry your baby around in a sling, feed her organic banana mash while you drink your ethical coffee, fine, but what gives you denialists the right to put my health at risk—to cause me to catch a debilitating, humiliating, and frightening cough that, two months after I finished my last course of antibiotics (how’s that for supporting big pharma?), still makes me convulse several times a day like some kind of tragic nineteenth-century heroine?

{Read it all here.}