Massachusetts, which has one of the highest rates of childhood vaccination, is facing an increase in parents claiming religious exemptions from having to vaccinate their children, even though the number of kindergarteners has decreased. But these exemptions aren’t actually religious at all:
Barry Taylor practices naturopathic medicine, and defends these parents’ right to choose. “The truth is, it’s not about their religion,” Taylor said. “It’s about their values. And it would be a bit of a white lie to say it’s religious.”
Proponents of parental choice want Massachusetts to add a philosophical exemption to the vaccine requirements, an option that’s available in 18 other states. The Arlington-based group Vaccine Choice instructs parents on how to seek a religious exemption, suggesting the following wording: “I am exempting my child from vaccination because it conflicts with my sincerely held religious belief.”
Ah, naturopathic–that is faith-based–medicine. Dr. Jon Cohen sums it up best:
Pediatrician Dr. John Cohen thinks the trend is worrisome. His practice refuses to treat families who won’t immunize their children. Massachusetts, he says, has one of the highest immunization rates in the U.S. “And if it quietly gets subverted by families using a quasi-religious reason to not immunize their child, it just subverts what we’re trying to do for children. It’s anti-children.”
…”You are withholding from them something easily available, well-studied and used for years that is going to prevent their getting an illness,” Dr. Cohen said. “It’s essentially abuse.”
Granted, if this post is found by the anti-vaccination woo-meisters, they’ll cite all sorts of spurious studies, but the evidence is clear and overwhelming: vaccination prevents tragic childhood diseases. The earth is not flat, evolution by natural selection and genetic drift happened (and happens), and vaccination against deadly and debilitating childhood diseases saves thousands of lives, and improves the quality of even more lives.
Supernatural thinking is bad when applied to evolution–were creationism to become politically ensconced at NIH and NSF in the same way other agencies have been ‘theopoliticized‘, it would be really detrimental to biological and medical research and progress. But supernatural thinking is even more harmful when it comes to vaccination. Selfishness in the guise of well-intentioned “values” is not a virtue. When it affects childhood vaccination, it is murderous.
Update: Orac and Paul Hutchinson have thoughts on this too.