Michael Simpson at The Skeptical Raptor reports that a mother who is opposed to vaccination proudly posted on her Facebook page that her son, infected with chickenpox, may have spread the disease to numerous people attending a baseball game.
According to Simpson's snapshot of a Facebook page, a woman allegedly wrote,
On a very happy side note, we have done a great job of increasing people's natural immunity to chicken pox. One of my sons was contagious at a baseball game (and probably practice two days before) and exposed others. My other son was at a camp that was primarily indoors for 3 days and many were not from our area, so it may have traveled because we didn't know he had it until the last day, so they were exposed. [...] it was never deliberate, but anyone who needed immunity may be getting it!
Simpson points out that while most people at the baseball game likely had been vaccinated, there is a possibility that some could face serious medical complications due to the exposure. Simpson writes:
So this mother didn't think. She didn't consider the awful consequences of her actions. She didn't consider that there might be a pregnant mother in the crowd who was at risk. Or a young child who was being treated for a cancer and whose parents brought her out to watch a sibling play in a ball game. No, she didn't think, because if she could think she would have had her child vaccinated and she wouldn't have intentionally tried to harm her fellow humans.
Although it is unknown whether the woman described in Simpson's article exempted her children from vaccinations by using religious exemptions, this practice is apparently common.
In December, reports surfaced that in eight states, more than 1 out of every 20 kindergartners are not getting the shots they need to to attend school. Parents claim religious exemptions and express fears over the medical effects of the vaccinations. Health officials are growing worried that there could be outbreaks of disease that were once thought to be all but wiped out.
In an opinion published in The New York Post this week, Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote that rumors, unfounded science and hysteria have prompted many parents to avoid vaccinating their children … and that their fears threaten her own kids' health. "Medical experts are now concerned about measles outbreaks across the country, particularly in the Northwest, but also in Miami, San Diego and rural Pennsylvania. Two people even contracted it at this year's Super Bowl. Many of these outbreaks can be traced back to kids whose parents had done 'research' and decided not to vaccinate their children," she wrote. "They're typically the wealthy and 'well-educated.' And they use so-called religious exemptions in the law in order to get around these state-mandated vaccines."
This trend is not new. Back in October 2007, NBC News and the Associated Press reported that records and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many states were seeing increases in the rate of religious exemptions claimed for kindergartners, and that public health officials were warning that it takes only a few people to cause an outbreak that can put large numbers of lives at risk.
Some are calling for a strict vaccine policy across the United States that toughens the religious exemption. One of those is Rathi Asaithambi, who wrote in the Baltimore Sun in April,
Throughout the United States, a potentially lethal war is erupting. It is a war that puts millions of innocent lives in danger and undermines the centuries-long sacred bond between physicians and patients. This is a war between pediatricians and patients and has developed largely because of the anti-vaccination movement. As a public health student at the Johns Hopkins University and a future pediatrician, I am alarmed by the catastrophic consequences this conflict could have on the health of American children.
An increasing number of pediatricians are asking families to leave their practice because of vaccine refusals, Asaithambi says, and this puts children at increased risk. "It is time for the United States to mandate a strict nationwide vaccine policy, with stringent guidelines to obtain religious exemptions and no room for philosophical exemptions," he suggests. "The recommended vaccination schedule issued annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is no longer sufficient. Although parental autonomy should be respected in many situations, vaccine-preventable illnesses are a public health issue, and parents do not have the right to gamble with their children's lives. Furthermore, they do not have the right to gamble with the lives of other children who may be infected by a child whose parents chose not to vaccinate."
But some see this as trampling religious freedom.
Dr. Joseph Mercola and Barbara Loe Fisher, one of the co-founders and the President of the National Vaccine Information Center, discussed the religious exemption to vaccination in November. "The Constitution protects our right to worship freely," Fisher said. "You have the right to defend your religious or spiritual belief about vaccination," adding that it is not necessary for a person claiming a religious exemption to have to be a member of a church.
"We must defend the religious exemption to vaccination at all costs. It's all that stands between us and a militant, oppressive forcing of vaccination by those who have literally at this point in time no accountability or liability for happens after those vaccines are given," Fisher said. Mercola agrees with her. They both warn that those claiming religious exemptions must be sincere about their belief because courts may challenge their sincerity. "It's not the place of a government official to grill people about the sincerity of their religious beliefs," Fisher opined.
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