This is one of the more palpable dangers of faith: disease spread by a refusal to accept modern medicine, itself based on the assumption that God will heal you. Except he doesn’t.
According to several sources, including the Dallas News, there’s a measles outbreak in Tarrant County, Texas, spread by one infectious case and a bunch of kids whose church frowns on vaccination. Frm the Dallas News:
The toll has grown to 20 cases since last Thursday, when Tarrant’s health department reported the first two.
Fifteen of the measles cases are in Tarrant, including four confirmed Wednesday.
“We are on high alert as we’ve seen case counts can cross county lines overnight,” said Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
All 20 measles cases so far have been traced to the 1,500-member Eagle Mountain International Church in northeast Tarrant County, health officials said.
The outbreak appears to be occurring within a group of families that has chosen not to get vaccinated, officials said.
“This will spread fast among pockets of unvaccinated people,” Williams said.
Of the 15 cases in Tarrant County, 11 of the infected people were not immunized against the measles.
In Texas, that’s rare. Almost 98 percent of students are vaccinated against the measles when they enter kindergarten, a state requirement for public and private schools, according to the state health department.
About 1 percent of students obtain “conscientious exemptions” for all vaccinations.
In this outbreak, all the infected children in Tarrant County were being home-schooled, said Al Roy, a spokesman for the health department.
The measles outbreak originated from a man who traveled to Indonesia on a mission trip where he was exposed to the infectious disease.
Upon his return, he visited the Eagle Mountain church, which is about 50 miles northwest of Dallas. The church’s risk manager, Robert Hayes, said the man, who was not a member of the church, shook hands and gave hugs to many others.
Dr. Karen Smith, who runs her own medical practice and the Eagle Mountain church clinic, said she has treated most of the measles cases — five adults and the rest children — since the outbreak began.
She said many members follow alternative medicine and choose not to immunize their children.
This is one reason that there should be no conscientious exemptions for vaccinations. Unlike the burqa case, this is a no-brainer. For matters of public health, and to eradicate disease completely, every child must be vaccination. No religious belief can or should contravene that.
The measles vaccine, which has been available since 1963, typically is administered to children at 12 months of age and again before they go to kindergarten.
The two-shot regimen is believed to confer full immunity to the disease.
Although measles isn’t often fatal in the U.S. (the fatality rate is 0.3%), it can cause miscarriages in pregnant women, and has an appreciable death rate in other countries. The World Heath Organization gives these facts:
- Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
- In 2011, there were 158 000 measles deaths globally – about 430 deaths every day or 18 deaths every hour.
- More than 95% of measles deaths occur in low-income countries with weak health infrastructures.
- Measles vaccination resulted in a 71% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2011 worldwide.
- In 2011, about 84% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000.
As I’ve said before, one death from such religious dogma is a horrible thing, but there have been many, particularly in Muslim countries whose residents are suspicious of vaccination as some kind of Western plot. Wikipedia notes this about vaccination , measles, polio, and religion:
In the early 2000s Islamic religious leaders in northern Nigeria advised their followers not to have their children vaccinated with oral polio vaccine. The boycott caused cases of polio to arise not only in Nigeria but also in neighboring countries. The followers were also wary of other vaccinations, and Nigeria reported over 20,000 measles cases and nearly 600 deaths from measles from January through March 2005. In 2006 Nigeria accounted for over half of all new polio cases worldwide. Outbreaks continued thereafter; for example, at least 200 children died in a late-2007 measles outbreak in Borno State.
The Eagle Mountain Church is a megachurch in the empire run by pastor Kenneth Copeland, whose daughter, Teri Copeland Pearsons, is the pastor who helps promulgate anti-vax attitudes. The Dallas Observer reports:
Pearsons is the eldest daughter of megapastor Kenneth Copeland, and her church is one of the cornerstones of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, his sprawling evangelical empire. He’s far from the most vocal proponent of the discredited theory that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine causes autism, but, between his advocacy of faith healing and his promotion of the vaccine-autism link on his online talk show, he’s not exactly urging his flock to get their recommended shots.
That left his daughter doing some nifty theological footwork in last week’s sermon as she struggled to explain how believers should trust their health to both God and medical professionals.
“There are a lot of people that think the Bible — we talk about walking by faith — it leaves out things such as, I don’t know, people just get strange. But when you read the Old Testament, you find that it is full of precautionary measures, and it is full of the law.Why did the Jewish people, why did they not die out during the plague? Because the Bible told them how to be clean, told them how to disinfect, told them there was something contagious. And the interesting thing of it, it wasn’t a medical doctor per se who took care of those things, it was the priesthood. It was the ministers, it was those who knew how to take the promises of God as well as the commandments of God to take care of things like disinfection and so forth….
Many of the things that we have in medical practice now actually are things you can trace back into scripture. It’s when we find out what’s in the scripture that we have wisdom.”
She concludes by announcing that the church was hosting a pair of free vaccination clinics and urging everyone to show up, advice that probably would have been more helpful two months ago.
I’m not sure where the Bible says, “Wash your hands after defecating or tending the sick.” Can someone enlighten me? For God, in his omniscience, surely could have passed on that wisdom if he either wrote or inspired the Bible. How many lives it would have saved!
Just to show how lunacy propagates among generations, here’s a video (one that I’ve shown before) with Kenneth Copeland and the Pentecostal minister Kenneth Hagin (died 2003) inspiring a congragation to behave like complete lunatics. I’m sure foreign readers will be puzzled at this video, though American readers will take the religious insanity in stride.
You can see more videos from the church here.