Sunday, December 20, 2009

This is what happens when we stop vaccinating...

There is currently an outbreak of mumps in New York City, with 600 confirmed and suspected cases.

Not many people know much about mumps, because it is so rare to hear about someone being infected.  That is due to a very successful vaccine which had all but eradicated the disease, starting in 1967.  Since then, we went from seeing an estimated 100,000-200,000 cases to fewer than 300 cases annually in the entire United States according to the New York State Department of Health.  We went from 300 cases in the entire United States per year, to 600 in New York City along.  In addition, in 2006, over 6,000 cases of mumps were reported in the U.S.  That's a twenty-fold increase.

The disease can cause deafness and encephalitis, among other serious complications, in case anyone thinks this isn't a big deal.  And the blame falls squarely on the anti-vaccination movement.  These opinions come from obvious misinformation.  It doesn't matter how often the Wakefield study is discredited, or how many new studies come out showing that vaccination and autism have no correlation.  Once misinformation is out there, there are too many scientifically illiterate people to wade through the bullshit and really think about the evidence presented.

The mumps cases are almost exclusive to a group of Orthodox Jews, and many of the parents of children who came down with mumps said they did not vaccinate their children because of their religious beliefs.  However, Jewish leaders in the area claim that it is not the case that Judaism should prevent anyone from being vaccinated:

But local religious leaders said there is nothing in Jewish law that prohibits vaccination.

"That's ridiculous," said Rabbi David Eidensohn, a frequent Orthodox Jewish commentator on family issues. "Any parent who doesn't get their child vaccinated is being foolish and endangering the entire community."

Dr. Yakov Tendler, a Monsey internist whose patients include many many of the Orthodox community, said that he has treated some adults with mumps who had been fully immunized but contracted the disease from a child.

"There are a lot of crazies out there who are putting their children and everyone else at risk," he said.

Religious leaders have to make it clear that children must be vaccinated, he said.

"The rabbinic community has to chastise congregants who are not vaccinating," he said.

The fact is, this religious excuse is used often as a way for parents to get out of vaccinating for their own personal opinions, which don't appear to actually come from their religion.  Children are required to be vaccinated by schools.  One of the few ways parents can get out of it is by a religious objection.  However, it is very clear that religious leaders do not oppose vaccinations.  In fact, they appear to encourage vaccination, and want to chastise those who are not vaccinating their children.  What's most frustrating to me, is that it is  highly doubtful that this evidence will affect the parents' ability to continue using their "religious" objection to keep from vaccinating their children.

No other objection could be clearly disproven, and still allowed to be used without question.  If I objected to vaccination based on scientific evidence, and my evidence was shown to be faulty, I would not be able to continue using that objection.  Yet here, it has been clearly disproven that Orthodox Judaism is opposed to vaccination.  I would be thoroughly shocked if parents were not allowed to continue using this objection. This double-standard is too often overlooked.

So there you go, a rant against both anti-vaccination nonsense and the ability of religion to completely side-step the burden of rational evidence.  How many points do I get for that?!


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