The Religious Right’s Anti-Vaccine Hysteria Is Reviving Dead Diseases in America
I’ve never really understood the fear of vaccines, mostly because there’s no real, hard evidence linking them to autism, autoimmune disorders, sudden infant death syndrome, or anything else. The only thing you can really like it to is making sure you don’t get sick. But, like abortion, evangelical Christians have been using vaccination hysteria as a way to galvanize support, even after Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s landmark 1998 paper linking vaccines to autism and bowel dysfunction was roundly debunked as bad science.
To be honest, I get the religious argument against inoculation way more than the scientific one. I think it goes like this: even if vaccination is not compulsory, it is a sin to thwart God’s will—if He would strike me down, I would be stricken. If I believed in a pissed-off white-bearded dude in robes up in heaven with a lightning bolt gun, I wouldn’t want to anger him or her either. It certainly makes more sense than the new age version of vaccine refusal, where suburban yuppies just slide their kids another Kombucha instead of bringing them to the pediatrician.
If Fred Phelps wants to believe that vaccines violate the word of god, thats fine. It’s no skin off my back if the evangelical community wants to believe that god doesn’t trust them with their own bodies. The problem for me is that some day I plan on impregnating a woman with my penis. Nine months later, we’ll be blessed with a little wriggly child (preferably a boy), and I want to make sure that he grows up big and strong and doesn’t accidently contract an old disease—especially one that most doctors don’t know how to treat anymore—because my neighbors decide not to vaccinate their child.
Remember measles? That old-timey disease we officially eliminated in the United States 13 years ago? Thanks to the wonder of inoculation, measles should be entirely nonexistent in this country, but yesterday the Center for Disease Control reported 159 cases from January through August of this year. This puts our country on track for the worst measles year since 1996, when there were 500 reported cases—which is disturbing, especially because doctors and nurses aren’t really trained to look out for measles anymore, because of the whole “elimination” thing.