Faith Is No Excuse for Avoiding Vaccinations

One year ago Denver Post reporter Michael Booth found that nearly half of children in the United States are under-vaccinated. A massive study of 320,000 children ages two to seven also revealed that the number of parents refusing or waiting to vaccinate their children has steadily increased since 2004. 

Booth was featured on a recent episode of On Point Radio, discussing Colorado's recent pushback against the anti-vaccine movement. The state is particularly interested in the parents of children who are refusing vaccinations for whooping cough and measles, two diseases thought to have been conquered though have recently seen a disturbing uptick—Booth reports that 5-6% of children are coming into school without proper vaccinations. 

When mentioning vaccinations, first to mind is often the controversy over their role in causing autism, as most famously declared by Andrew Wakefield. Booth notes that his work has been discredited time and again, although doctors often hear it used as an excuse as to why parents still refuse to vaccinate. 

During the show, On Point host Tom Ashbrook points out the myriad reasons that parents are opting out. While there is certainly an argument for over-vaccination, the most disturbing trend is not receiving the shots for religious reasons.

Twenty-one members of the Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas were infected with measles last year, a disease that was thought to have been eliminated in the United States over a decade ago. In 2010, founder Kenneth Copeland spoke out against vaccinations.

You don't take the word of the guy that's trying to give the shot about what's good and what isn't.

His sentiment that God is the only one who makes such a decision is shared by his daughter, Terri, currently the church's pastor. 

So I'm going to tell you what the facts are, and the facts are the facts, but then we know the truth. That always overcomes facts.

Eventually, notes Ashbrook, Terri said her church would offer vaccinations. Yet she added that if the parishioners do not 'have faith' in the process, they should follow their beliefs more than anything else. 

As Paul Offit, chief of the division of infectious diseases and the director of the vaccine education center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, notes, there were 200 cases of the measles across the country in 2013. This is much lower than the 4-5 million cases annually reported before immunizations began, but the fact that any are occurring is troublesome.

Offit notes that while no deaths occurred from measles last year, it might take 600 cases for that to happen, which unfortunately might be what it takes to get people back into the doctor's office again.

Thus an interesting paradigm has emerged. While a portion of our society is paranoid about germs, you have a growing contingent of people convinced that 'we need to build our natural immunities through exposure,' opting out of vaccinations and hand sanitizers, for example. 

This last trend was put to the test in 2005 by the US Army, a known breeding ground for germs. Over a thirteen-week period, two test battalions were used in seeing the effectiveness of Purell. The results were 40% less respiratory illness, 48% less gastrointestinal illness and 44% less lost training time. The military became one of Purell's biggest customers and has seen remarkable results, as have hospitals and doctors who make use of such products, as noted by Atul Gawande

This is where feelings and fact clash. The anti-vaccine movement makes sound arguments: too many drugs might very well cause more harm than good. Yet, when it comes to reliable vaccinations like those for measles, the cost is too high to throw ourselves back decades.

Like most mindsets that oppose regulations, the anti-vaccine movement is fueled by the dislike of a failed health care system that too often is filled with doctors prescribing pills instead of taking a holistic approach to health, combined with a growing distrust of our government and its overall effectiveness.

It is healthy to question sanctions from on high. Justifying not getting vaccinated based on feelings or faith is not healthy, however. Allowing children to become infected with preventable diseases based on bunk science or, worse, believing a deity knows more about medicine than your doctor, is simply, and tragically, ignorant.

Image: JPC-PROD/

Befriend your ideological opposite. It’s fun.

Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
  • Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
  • "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

3 ways to find a meaningful job, or find purpose in the job you already have

Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.

  • Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
  • There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
  • "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
Keep reading Show less

Physicist advances a radical theory of gravity

Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.

Photo by Willeke Duijvekam
Surprising Science
  • The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
  • The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
  • While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
Keep reading Show less

UPS has been discreetly using self-driving trucks to deliver cargo

TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.

PAUL RATJE / Contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
  • UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
  • TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.
Keep reading Show less