The time has come for limiting vaccine exemptions. In my last post, Do Adults Need the Measles Vaccine?, I discussed the growing crisis of measles reinfestation in this country and other parts of the world after near eradication many years ago.
The problem is fake news about the safety of vaccines. Bogus medical research by British doctor Andrew Wakefield was published in 1998 in the British medical journal, The Lancet. He claimed measles vaccine caused autism. This research has since been discredited and The Lancetpublished a retraction. Wakefield was even stripped of his medical license in 2010.
Yet the myth of vaccine-associated autism continues, in part due to social media. The result has been declining vaccination rates in this country and especially in Europe. The tragic impact has been rising measles cases and even deaths.
The solution is increasing vaccination rates. The vaccine is safe and effective. The disease is dangerous. The risk of serious neurological disease following vaccination is one in 365,000 – the risk of death with the disease is 1 – 2 in 1,000.
States are responding with new legislation designed to address the problem. But some aren’t responding enough. New York has recorded 600-plus cases alone out of 839 cases reported this year nationwide. This is more in New York alone than the number recorded nationwide in 2018.
Jason Riley, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says the cases have been concentrated in New York City and its suburbs, where pockets of Muslim, Christian and Orthodox Jewish families object to receiving the shots on religious grounds. Public health officials across the country are scrambling to raise awareness about the importance of inoculations, a task made more difficult by others spreading quackery on social media. On social media last week, a state legislator in Texas compared vaccines to “sorcery” and called them “dangerous.” Such a false claim by politicians for political purposes is both reckless and irresponsible. It highlights the need for new legislation to protect the safety of the public.
The problem is exemptions. There are far too many of them. According to the National Conference of State legislature, all but three states – California, West Virginia and Mississippi – grant exemptions from school immunization requirements for “religious reasons.” And 16 states “allow philosophical exemptions for those who object to immunizations because of personal, moral or other beliefs.” Even medical exemptions need more scrutiny.
The issue is safety – plain and simple. When your actions increase the likelihood of danger for others in this country then you must be held accountable. Therefore, there must be no exemptions for religious grounds and no exemptions for medical grounds except when the patient is immunocompromised. If these rules were followed, those few unvaccinated individuals would be protected by “herd immunity.”
Parents who refuse to comply with vaccinations must have their children excluded from the schools and public places lest they present a danger to others and themselves. Reckless drivers have their licenses revoked for the safety of the public. Reckless parents should be treated likewise.