A man travels to Indonesia and contracts the measles. He then visits a church in Texas, sickening 21 people -- at least so far. Who should feel responsible? The unvaccinated man who contracted the disease or the ministers at the church who’ve questioned the practice of vaccination and instead advocate for faith-healing?
NBC News health correspondent JoNel Aleccia reports: “Sixteen people -- nine children and seven adults -- ranging in age from 4 months to 44 years had come down with the highly contagious virus in Tarrant County, Texas, as of Monday. […] All of the cases are linked to the Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas, where a visitor who’d traveled to Indonesia became infected with measles -- and then returned to the U.S., spreading it to the largely unvaccinated church community, said Russell Jones, the Texas state epidemiologist.”
Measles, of course, is a preventable disease -- to those who are immunized. For those who aren’t vaccinated, getting the disease is almost unavoidable after exposure. “Measles, transmitted through coughing and sneezing, can cause ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, brain injuries and death,” explains Rong-Gong Lin II of the Los Angeles Times. “Cases can quickly spread in schools and communities, especially in areas with a high concentration of children who haven’t been vaccinated.”
That’s why physician and professor Nina Shapiro recently took to our Op-Ed pages to argue for schools to become “unvaccinated-free zones.”
“Parents have varied reasons for choosing not to immunize their children,” she wrote. “Some are concerned that vaccinations raise the risk of autism, although study after study has debunked this myth. Others, concerned that small bodies can’t tolerate so many vaccines at once, have decided to spread out the schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though there is little evidence to support this practice. Some parents think that because some of the illnesses for which kids get immunized are extremely rare these days, there’s little reason to vaccinate.”
“But here’s the reality,” she argued. “These diseases do exist, and we’re already seeing some of them make a comeback.”
The silver lining in the Texas case is that the Eagle Mountain International Church is now hosting vaccination clinics and encouraging its congregation to get immunized. The Old Testament is “full of precautionary measures,” senior pastor Terri Pearsons said in a recent sermon, KXAS-TV in Dallas reported. “The main thing is stay in faith no matter what you do.”