Religion

Anti-vaxxers can’t use religion as excuse for their dangerous threat to children | Opinion

Measles could make a comeback in SC. Here’s why

The amount of immunization exemptions for religious reasons have skyrocketed in South Carolina in the past five years.
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The amount of immunization exemptions for religious reasons have skyrocketed in South Carolina in the past five years.

Believing that vaccinations for measles and other typical childhood immunizations could lead to autism takes the term “fake news” to a whole new level of absurdity.

Adding to the incredulity surrounding this issue are people of faith who refuse such vaccinations for religious reasons, whatever that means. Are these fringe religious groups telling us that God is good with their decision and also with the consequence of their actions if there is an outbreak of measles in the United States?

These anti-vaccine folk don’t only represent fake news. Even worse, they are part of a movement on many different fronts that the Yale historian Timothy Snyder describes as the era of “post-truths.”

What matters to them is the mythology of fear and not the science-backed truth of public health.

Not one shred of credible and scientifically-based evidence has been produced to support their contention that vaccinations of measles causes autism. Instead, the medical and science communities have a track record of decades demonstrating that early immunization has led to the eradication of these childhood diseases.

There are fringe groups who reject any form of medicine and choose prayer as the cure for all diseases.

In Africa there have been groups who refused to take the polio vaccination due to a belief that such a vaccine would cause the HIV virus.

Other groups who reject vaccinations say it is due to their opposition to all technology rather, than specifically religious reasons.

Then there are some conservative religious groups, for example, who refuse the HPV vaccine that protects against genital warts and some kinds of cancer, according to medical authorities.

The World Health Organization dealt with the issue of vaccines using gelatin which is an ingredient made from pig tissue. Rabbinical authorities from all the branches of Judaism decreed that gelatin was acceptable and did not violate the prohibition in Judaism against consuming any pork products.

Judaism has a principle called Pekuah Nefesh, meaning that saving a life allows one to violate all other commandments of Judaism.

Similarly, the World Health Organization reached out to Muslim countries that also prohibit eating pork on this same issue and Islamic scholars taught that Islam has a principle called the “laws of necessity.” This means that Islam makes it possible to declare something that is forbidden to be permissible when there is no choice and human life is at stake.

Some fringe ultra-Orthodox groups reject science and claim that these vaccines are fraudulent. These voices represent a very small subgroup of society, but the result is that a contagious disease like measles can infect scores of people outside of their isolated culture.

People say that they are rejecting these vaccines to protect their children. Do they not care that their decision may put our children in America at risk?

In a report from the Daily Beast back in 2015, one parent was quoted as saying, “I’m embarrassed to say that the idea that we might be putting other people at risk by not vaccinating our daughter never really crossed our minds. We were focused on keeping our daughter safe, and little else. That was a mistake.”

We are a nation that honors individual rights as the cornerstone of our ethos as Americans. At the same time, aren’t we a nation that is supposed to care for each other and recognize that our private decisions impact America’s children?

I’d like to see these folks start to show their concern for us all and not just for themselves. Our lives and the lives of our children may depend upon it.

I applaud New York State, which recently ended the exemption for vaccines. The outbreak of measles made that decision a moral and legislative imperative.

I would like to see all states enact this kind of law so that we can protect the children. If there are valid reasons for an exemption then let the medical community give us the guidance as to what conditions justify such exemptions.

Government is not the problem, rather, it is supposed to protect the health and safety of our society.

Religions are actually to be praised for having in their laws and doctrines the flexibility to make exceptions when human life is at risk.

So I do not blame religion, but only those fringe groups who live by rules counter to their own faith tradition’s teaching, and ignore the society that they live in.

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