Mike the Mad Biologist

Vaccination and Supernatural Thinking

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 beentheopoliticized‘, 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.

Comments

  1. #1 kemibe
    July 31, 2007

    I think that if parents don’t want to participate in sound public-health practices by vaccinating their kids, this should be their choice. All society should ask in exchange is that they and their kids remain forever quarantined from full-fledged human beings. They can all go live on reservations like “Ave Maria,” the new carnival village in Florida set up by the Domino’s Pizza freak, where they can have their own pseudoschools, their own hospitals, their own homosexer correction facilities, their own everything. They can have libraries free of pesky science texts and full of all sorts of pro-Christian, anti-everyone-else literature. And no sex ed (except abstince-based stuff) or contraception!

    Just keep these primitives the fuck out of everyone else’s hair. That’s all.

  2. #2 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 31, 2007

    I noticed in one of the comments that the poster referenced RFK JR’s article in Rolling Stone as proof that the guvmint and doctors are hiding the autism/thimerasol link. Could some one please teach RFK Jr. how to learn about a subject and then he can correct the evils he has caused?

  3. #3 marble
    July 31, 2007

    Mike the Mad Biologist, this is the first time I have read your blog, but just for having the category of “Fucking Morons,” even without the post to which it was attached, I officially love you.

  4. #4 TheProbe
    July 31, 2007

    You pro-vaccinations types are interfering with Darwinian culling of the herd. Let these morons not vaccinate their children and end those gene lines which cause such stupidity.

  5. #5 Susan
    July 31, 2007

    I hear they’ve been blaming vaccinations for the rise in autism in North America. Next thing you know they’ll be blaming pot smoking on schizophrenia…I mean…

  6. #6 DuWayne
    July 31, 2007

    One minor quibble. I think it’s pretty conclusive now, that the world is not only flat, but rests upon the back of four – possibly five, elephants, who in turn, rest upon the back of a rather sizable turtle. A very, very intent turtle.

    Seriously though, I have to really appreciate the tag, fucking morons. Indeed, that could have been the whole of the post, as hyperlink. Glad you added more, but that sums it up well. Now if only it were possible to keep these kids out of public schools. Screw these exemptions. They should not be allowed to send their unvaccinated kids, into schools with the rest of us who are actually responsible for our children. Fucking morons indeed.

  7. #7 Andrew Wade
    July 31, 2007

    You pro-vaccinations types are interfering with Darwinian culling of the herd.

    We’re under no obligation to some god of natural selection to make life “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. And unlike a certain Elohim I don’t believe in “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation …” If we must engage in eugenics, something that I am entirely unconvinced is necessary, there are somewhat more humane, not to mention more effective, ways to go about it than infectious diseases.

  8. #8 skunqesh
    August 1, 2007

    something that kinda got overlooked, that is Dr. Cohen’s refusal to treat families that won’t immunize their kids. Is this ethical?? Part of me sided immediately with the doc but doesn’t his action, or I should call it inaction, go against the hippocratic oath? In so far as refusing to treat a patient is tantamount to harm by neglect?

    As said – I’m conflicted. I side with Dr. Cohen like I’d side with big tobacco against smokers (personally i’d like to see BT bankrupted, but the best way to inflict that is STOP SMOKING!!) but these (fucking moron’s) kids weren’t handed a choice. Or is this dilemma as simple as the old ‘No shoes, No shirt, No Vaccinations = No Service’ option available to every biz owner? Seems a bit like tuff luv.

  9. #9 blf
    August 1, 2007

    Hum… Is it ethical for there to be any non-medical exemptions? That is, why the f-k are people allowed to claim “religion” (e.g.) as a reason to avoid childhood vaccination?

  10. #10 MartinM
    August 1, 2007

    something that kinda got overlooked, that is Dr. Cohen’s refusal to treat families that won’t immunize their kids. Is this ethical??

    Yes, it is. He has a responsibility to protect his other patients.

  11. #11 Orac
    August 1, 2007

    something that kinda got overlooked, that is Dr. Cohen’s refusal to treat families that won’t immunize their kids. Is this ethical?? Part of me sided immediately with the doc but doesn’t his action, or I should call it inaction, go against the hippocratic oath? In so far as refusing to treat a patient is tantamount to harm by neglect?

    It would not be ethical of Dr. Cohen to refuse emergency treatment on the basis of vaccination status. However, there is nothing that says that he has to take the unvaccinated on as permanent patients on an elective basis, particularly if there are other physicians who will take them on. As was pointed out, such children sitting in the waiting room could represent a hazard to his other patients, particularly the immunosuppressed.

    My sole quibble with Dr. Cohen is that perhaps by taking such patients on he would be able to persuade the parents of at least some of them to let their children be vaccinated. As it is, the parents will simply find a either a woo-loving physician or a physician who won’t challenge them on their antivaccination views.

  12. #12 llewelly
    August 1, 2007

    Anyone who seriously thinks anti-vaccination movement is not a religion should try meeting a few of its members.
    The only important difference between this, and (for example) scientology’s refusals of psychiatric medicine is that viruses are known to be contagious.

  13. #13 PennyBright
    August 1, 2007

    Here via Orac – nice post, Mike. *thumbs-up*

    BLF – people are allowed to claim a religious exemption from vaccination and from providing medical care to their children at all due to the lobbying efforts of the Christian Science church.

    http://www.masskids.org/dbre/dbre_8.html

    The CS church, interestingly enough, has its central governing body in Boston, MA.

  14. #14 The Ghost of Robert Mendelsohn, MD
    February 4, 2009

    Oh Mad One,

    Merck, Wyeth, and Co. have educated you well:
    Better living/health thru chemistry…

    Rarely, vaccination kills and injures. [pubmed]
    Rarely, VPD’s kill and injure. [pubmed]

    The principles embodied in the massive corpus of the “Informed Consent” doctrine should apply to vaccination, just as they do with any and all other medical interventions with the potential to cause death or disability. Informed Consent implies Informed Refusal.

    The one EXCEPTION is when a true emergency/epidemic situation arises. An IOM expert once defined such an emergency in the context of childhood vaccination mandates as, “…when the mortality rate from the disease eclipses the birth rate…”

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.