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Protection of Conscience Project

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Service, not Servitude
Ethics

Compulsory Vaccination

Christian Medical and Dental Associations (USA)
Reproduced with permission

Introduction:
Dr. Dave Stevens of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations offers the following comment on an Associated Press story. The article asserts that an increasing number of parents are refusing to vaccinate their children, and that many are falsely claiming religious exemptions because they are concerned about side effects but do not, in fact, have religious or conscientious objections to vaccination. The report emphasizes the dangers caused to others by even small numbers of people who refuse vaccinations. Dr. Paul Offit, head of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, is quoted as describing resistance to vaccination as "an irrational, fear-based decision."

CMDA CEO Dave Stevens, MD: "I spent a lot of time learning about immunization practices while a missionary in Africa. I had an isolation ward full of children with measles complications and a quarter of them died in the hospital. I've treated tetanus in neonatal patients and adults, whooping cough, diphtheria, rabies and a host of other childhood diseases that the the author of this article has never seen and which most physicians will not encounter in their whole career. I've designed and supervised a comprehensive immunization program that in seven years took our immunization rate among our half a million people from less than 20% to over 90%. Along that path I had to overcome many superstitions and misconceptions.

It is clear to me that Steve LeBlanc's, the author of this article, comments are less about immunizations and more about right of conscience. A few thousand parents refusing immunizations for their children out of 3.7 million has no effect on herd immunity. He complains about parents claiming religious exemptions who are in fact not religious but then focuses his examples on small unimmunized religious groups who experienced mini-epidemics. He fails to point out that even these are unusual and that the contagion didn't disseminate into the wider community.

The answer is not forcing people to immunize their children over their deeply held religious beliefs except in the most dire situations. The answer is better education for the growing number of parents that don't immunize their children out of fear of bad outcomes. I know some Christian parents who have fallen prey to that vaccination phobia. Such parents regularly call CMDA seeking advice. With clear facts, good counsel and an understanding of their Biblical responsibilities, most change their views and immunize their children.

If the government can force parents to betray their deeply held religious beliefs on immunizations today, they can force them to betray them for any other reason they come up with tomorrow. I believe every child should be immunized, but not at the expense of one of our most important rights."

 

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