Sunday, August 31, 2008

Medical Freeloaders: Christians who Refuse Immunizations are Parasites

Parents who refuse vaccinations for their children on religious/moral grounds are nothing more than parasites on the rest of us. They claim that God will protect them, or that if their children get ill or die, it is "God's will." In reality, it's just big talk, because their children are protected from disease by a "shield" that the rest of us provide when we accept the slight risk of immunization for our children. Called the "herd immunity," it happens when 80-95% of the population is immunized: If a disease, say measles, strikes one child, but 95% of the children are immunized, the disease can't spread, because the immunized children block it.

How many of these religious zealots would abandon their beliefs after their first child died, then their second, then third... Just how strong is their faith in God's will? If a vaccine was just a short drive into town, and half their children were six feet under the ground, would they really still believe that this is what God wanted?

Just a hundred years ago, almost half of all children died before reaching adulthood, yet today, thanks to vaccinations and responsible parents, most kids today reach adulthood having never seen anyone die. They never see any one crippled from polio, disfigured by smallpox, blinded by syphilis, or deaf from an ear infection. These religious zealots are far removed from the reality of "God's will." According to their beliefs, we should let half the children in America die, even though we could prevent it.

That is immoral.

I respect most religious beliefs (although I certainly don't share them). But I object to this hypocrisy – they're using the rest of us as a shield, loudly proclaiming their virtuousness, while actually taking no risk.

My older brother was one of the last people in America to get polio. He was fortunate; although he was very ill, and had to undergo intensive physical therapy, he didn't suffer any long-term paralysis. But most of his friends at the recuperation center weren't so lucky; they ended up on crutches or in wheelchairs, and some even died. Before the Salk vaccine was introduced in 1955, polio was so common that almost everybody knew a victim. Now, thanks to scientists and to responsible parents, no child in America has to suffer this crippling disease.

While living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was a personal victim of these Christian zealots: I contracted whooping cough. Most of you have no idea just how awful this is potentially fatal disease is, because it is all but eradicated in the United States, and you've never seen the horrors it can bring. In New Mexico, a group of irresponsible parents refused to have their children immunized. When these kids reached school age, they all were concentrated in a single place (school), where the percentage of unimmunized kids crossed the critical threshold at which herd immunity stops working. And, just as the epidemiologists predict, there was an epidemic of whooping cough among the unimmunized kids. Unfortunately for me and an number of adults in Santa Fe, the whooping cough vaccine only lasts about thirty years, and one day I woke up coughing my lungs out. I always wondered how a cough could kill you; now I know. It was by far the most painful disease I've ever had, for which I can thank a bunch of Christians in New Mexico.

1 comment:

  1. And have you heard? Measles is back by popular demand!


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