“The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.” —H.L. Mencken
THE ANTIVAX MOVEMENT, always short on science, has now devolved into a de facto religious cult. Meaning: antivaxxers believe in their denial-of-vaccine-is-good theory in exactly the same way, and with exactly the same fervor, that Southern Baptists believe in Christ.
There’s nothing wrong with having faith in the palpably untrue—unless it starts hurting people. Children especially. My friend is an ER nurse. He tells of a young boy who needed an emergency blood transfusion. The boy’s grandmother, a staunch Jehovah’s Witness, would not allow it to happen, on religious grounds. The boy died.
One of the founding beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses was that the world would end in 1914—or, rather, that the old system would be replaced by God’s Kingdom on Earth. This means that we’re allowing life-and-death medical decisions to be made on religious grounds by adherents to a sect that had forecast the Rapture and instead got the Great War. We’re doing this out of respect for religious belief. We’re allowing children to die—and, furthermore, our male children to have their genitals mutilated—because we’re afraid to offend someone’s religious belief.
Given that all religious belief is by definition ridiculous—if these myths were not ridiculous, they would not require a “leap of faith” to believe them; I’m talking of the burning bush and Lazarus and the Night Journey, to say nothing of the more overt flimflammery of the Mormons and the aforementioned Jehovah’s Witnesses—to base any medical decisions on them goes beyond folly to the realm of criminal negligence.
Which brings us back to our antivaxxers. Some states have already proposed legislation prohibiting religious exception for vaccines. A rational, logical idea, to be sure, but one that the antivaxxers and the religious nutjobs and the libertarians will automatically oppose. Better is to pass a law granting parents the freedom to choose not to vaccinate their children for non-medical reasons; however, IF that child gets measles/mumps/rubella and dies, the parents should be changed with manslaughter…and if the child gets another child sick of some long-since-conquered disease and that child dies, the parents should be charged with manslaughter. Methinks the appeal of denying vaccines will wither in the face of jail time.
Until now, the antivaxxers have deluded themselves into believing that their decision not to immunize only affects their own children. (Which is bad enough: why should a kid whose parents are ignorant be subjected to, say, diphtheria?) My proposed law would remind them of the truth—that it’s infants and those whose immune systems will not allow them to get vaccines who are adversely affected by their willful ignorance.