(RNS) The entirely preventable California measles outbreak has now sickened more than 70 people. With perhaps hundreds more exposed, the outbreak will likely continue.
As the disease spreads, experts will debate how we respond and what to do about the anti-vaccine movement that’s partly to blame for this mess. Likely, all we’ll agree on is better outreach to parents.
That’s not enough. Parents who do not vaccinate their children should go to jail.
In the year 2015, it is amazing that anyone in the United States contracts measles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the U.S. eliminated all native cases of measles in the year 2000. New cases generally occurred only among unvaccinated foreigners. Today, however, because of ignorant “anti-vaxxers,” the disease is staging a comeback.
Anti-vaxxers often claim the right not to put “poison” in their children’s bodies. That is ludicrous. A mountain of data has demonstrated that vaccines are safe and effective. Insisting otherwise is akin to believing that the moon landing was faked.
A more serious objection is that, like birth control, those with religious objections should be exempted. But, let’s remember that civil rights go both ways.
Prohibitionist John Finch once said, “Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.” For infectious disease, we could reformulate that to: “Your right to be sick ends where my right to be healthy begins.”
Measles is perhaps the most infectious human disease. Virus particles can remain in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves. And measles is not a minor infection. The World Health Organization reports that before widespread vaccination began in 1980, 2.6 million people a year died from measles. About 400 people a day still do.
Put simply, no person has the right to threaten the safety of his community. Like drunken drivers, the unvaccinated pose an imminent danger to others. They pose a lethal threat to the most vulnerable: the immunocompromised, such as HIV or cancer patients, and infants who have yet to receive their vaccines.
Anti-vaccine parents are turning their children into little walking time bombs. They ought to be charged for endangering their children and others.
Because humans are the only natural host for the virus, the WHO hopes to eradicate the disease from the planet, just like smallpox. This noble mission has been greatly complicated by such medical luminaries as Bill Maher and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who have spread anti-vaccine propaganda to millions. They have blood on their hands.
It is time to end this insanity. Though jail sounds drastic, it could be the only way to send a strong message about the deadly consequences of failing to vaccinate children.
YS END RNS