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.
Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.
- Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
- Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
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Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.
It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.
Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.
Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.
The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.
It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.
In their findings the authors state:
"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."
With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
- Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
- Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
- We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
- If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.
There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:
"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.
This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.
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