The Invisible Bullet of Non-Vaccination


bulletBy Rabbi Hershy Z. Ten

President of Bikur Cholim, Los Angeles, CA

Imagine a 6 year old child walking into a classroom waving a loaded gun amidst his classmates while his pregnant teacher acts as if nothing is wrong.  Now imagine a week later 4 more gun-toting children come to school with no objection from any school personnel.  While this scenario is inconceivable, in fact this deadly game of Russian Roulette is happening in our own communities at an alarming rate.  Over the past several weeks the deadly disease of measles has returned.  From Disneyland in Orange County to Santa Monica, the number of potentially life-threatening cases is growing every day.  The cause is simple, not enough children are being vaccinated which is placing us all at risk.

Every day, there are anti-vaxxer parents sending their children into schools, playgroups, synagogues, and public gatherings as unwitting biological weapons; creating breeding grounds for contagious diseases long thought to be eradicated in America thanks to the success of vaccinations.

Some Los Angeles Jewish day schools have reported that in recent years (2013 – 2014) as many as 21% of their kindergarten students are not immunized due to the Personal Beliefs Exemption.  These children sit and play with your children; their parents take them to pizza shops, celebrations, everywhere.  Adults who were vaccinated aren’t safe either, as the potency and effectiveness of childhood vaccinations eventually wears off.  And since there is no way of identifying these carriers, everyone is a potential victim in the line of fire.

The efficacy of MMR vaccines relies on “herd immunity”; meaning that 95% of the population must be immunized to ensure that an infected person cannot spread disease.  This is especially vital to the 1% of the population who experience adverse physical reactions to vaccines thus cannot be vaccinated.  And when the herd immunity is compromised, the most contagious diseases are the first to return.  We’ve seen the return of pertussis (whooping cough), mumps, and now measles.  To put this danger into perspective, measles carries the distinction of being the world’s most contagious disease.  Just one infected child in a crowd can spread measles to every other person present who hasn’t been vaccinated, leading to hospitalization and possible death.

Babies are scheduled to get their first measles shot at 12 to 15 months of age (but no earlier than 6 months) which means that within the first year of their lives, they are defenseless against anyone walking around spreading this life-threatening disease.  In fact, measles is so widespread in California that public health officials have advised parents to keep all babies under immunization age away from crowds, international travelers, and airports.

For those below the poverty-line, affordability was thought to be the obstacle to immunization; however since vaccinations are available through all public health systems, this resistance isn’t stemming from a lack of funds.  Over the past decade there has been a significant uptick of well-educated and economically stable households opting not to immunize their children citing personal and religious beliefs as their mantra.  Unfortunately the choice not to vaccinate is most often based on false data that incites fear among parents.  Much is due to people clinging to erroneous studies published such as the now discredited and fraudulent 1998 research paper authored by Andrew J. Wakefield, MD falsely claiming links between the MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease; all of which was uniformly discredited by the worldwide medical community and recanted by the author himself.  Exacerbating the problem are irresponsible laypeople, especially celebrities, who publicly decry vaccinations with absolutely zero medical credentials or supporting research.

For anyone suffering from measles it is a potential killer.  For the pregnant woman, measles places their unborn child at risk to develop stunted growth, mental retardation, malformations of the heart and eyes, deafness, and liver, spleen, and bone marrow problems.

While school administrators are aware of which students are not vaccinated, their teachers are not.  So what is a pregnant teacher to do?  Should a policy be put in place to have unvaccinated children removed from school?  What is the anti-vaxxer parent’s responsibility, must they disclose that their children pose a risk to others?  While many pediatricians are now refusing to continue caring for patients who are unvaccinated, equal measures need to be implemented by our schools and synagogues against this potential epidemic.  Just little more than 25 years ago, America was hit by a major measles outbreak which infected 55,000 people and killed 120, with half of said deaths occurring in California.

A fundamental tenet of the Torah is to lead a healthy lifestyle and not put oneself or a fellow human-being at risk.  The observant community has always looked to its rabbinical and educational leaders for guidance and there are substantial halachic sources supporting immunization that should be championed and set forth to help protect our children and society.  There is no shortage of sermons from the pulpit expressing opinions on regional or global politics or lobbying congregants to join on missions to our nation’s Capital.  Policies are established by educators to shelter students from inappropriate media and etiquette that may compromise our values and iron gates and guards employed to protect our synagogues and schools.  With the very real threat that measles poses, we must call on our leadership to allay the unsubstantiated fear of vaccinations and thwart this deadly anti-vaxxer trend.

L. Quaytman contributed to this article.

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  1. There is no scientific proof to your statements so please stop encouraging people to get the vaccination and cause themselves harm. Just one well known example is autism and many others. Thank you

  2. Well said. It should be ossur to allow children in to school if not vaccinated in accordance with the Health Dept guidelines. Parents can jeapordize their children if they wish (idiots), but not the other children and staff. They could be deemed murderers bidei Shomayim.

  3. There is no medical intervention without risk and the benefits of an intervention must always be weighted against the risk. The risk may be small but when it effects you or your child, maybe in a permanent way, it’s not so small at all.
    Looking at the benefits, when we look at how ineffective vaccines are in the real world, how many times they really don’t work even when people take multiple doses, that makes them even less desirable. We don’t even know how ineffective some are because the diseases are so rare so if rarely does your average person get Hepatitis B and now rarely does anybody get it, maybe it’s really almost 0% effective. Immunization rates are about 90% and they still aren’t foolproof.
    If adults are worried about their own vaccination immunity wearing off (or the vaccination never worked to begin with) they can have themselves tested and deal with it. If they don’t, they are just as much an “invisible bullet”. Don’t inject children to protect adults. Children who are medically fragile, are fragile and can land up in a hospital due to a common cold as well. The only way to prevent this is for all of us to walk around in hazard or space suits so we don’t spread our germs around. In fact, people who abuse antibiotics or go out in public when they are sick are a menace as well. Those of us who reserve antibiotics for serious illnesses are suffering from antibiotic resistant bacteria from those doctors who prescribed antibiotics for viruses or self limiting illnesses that could have been cured with home remedies and the patients who insisted on antibiotics because they were too ignorant or lazy to take care of themselves properly. That is a much more dangerous situation than chicken pox. I am lumping it here with the measles because parents are generally unable to choose which vaccines they want to administer.
    Parents have the ultimate responsibility for their children’s well being and should have the right to make their children’s medical decisions.

  4. To those who are anti vaccine: Just curious, If Polio were chas v’shalom to break out in the community where you live, would you give your child the vaccine or not?

  5. #1 and #3:

    There is plenty of scientific proof that vaccines work. And there is no proof at all (except for some discredited quacks) for any of the risks you claim.

    Sure, you have the right to determine your children’s medical decisions. But you don’t have the right to endanger the rest of us. Go live in a cave with the rest of your gullible friends.

  6. To concerned mom – yes, you are right. “Parents do have the ultimate responsibility for their children…. and “may” have the right to make thier medical decisions”.
    That may all be true (that can be argued halachically – but this is not the forum for that) – but you are not entitled to make that decision for other parents. And if you decide not to vaccinate your child, which may create a danger for another child or teacher, for that you do not have any rights.
    So, you may decide not to vaccinate, but the school has all the rights, and even the responsibilty, not to let your child into school.
    Just home school your child and keep them away from all other children.
    And don’t bring them into shul either – daven with them at home.
    That is your right – which does not include infringing on my rights.

  7. do some research on the vaccine injury rate and then let’s talk. of course you can’t look at the studies put out by the drug companies because it is obvious to all that they are completely subjective and stand to make billions of dollars.
    Find someone in the community (unfortunately you won’t have to look far) who’s child has a vaccine injury and ask them to tell you their story… then you may come to your own conclusion.
    I have searched out and found these instances and it is hard to ignore. If a child was crawling, sitting and making sounds up to the day of receiving a vaccine and then screams and refuses to eat, has seizures etc immediately after the vaccine and is left without the ability to crawl or hold up the weight of her own head (there are pictures with dates to substantiate) and 12 years later this child still suffers from neurological deficiencies explain to me how you can make a statement that vaccines are safe.

    Not all vaccines are created equal but it is the parent’s responsibility to get educated and make the decision based on all the relevant facts. it is not the governments decision nor should it be the child’s doctor or society.

    some food for thought:
    -why do children in the frum community need to get the Hep B vaccine when they are just a few days old, do you know what Hep B is and how it is transmitted?
    -Why do children need to get vaccinated for chickenpox? we all had chickenpox as children and it was not a fatal disease back then nor is it now? furthermore the vaccine does not provide 100% immunity and its effectiveness wears off over time isn’t better for a girl to get chickenpox as a young child be immune for life than get the vaccine with uncertain immunity and then perhaps get chickenpox when expecting a child?
    -why does the uneducated pro-vaccine community link all vaccines together? this does not help their cause some vaccines are clearly not necessary for our children?

    Parents you need to be the advocate for your children you need to get educated, if you decide to vaccinate b’hatzlacha if you decide not to vaccinate b’hatzlacha but this is like any other medical treatment you need to understand it and then you need to make the decision not the Doctors.

  8. The vaccine pro and con controversy is not new but one fact is very telling: the ones who are refusing vaccines are in fact very well versed in the vaccine ins and outs and the ones pushing vaccines usually are clueless. I challenge this author (and anyone agreeing with his info)to answer some vaccine ‘trivia’:
    -Do you know what disease the rotavirus vaccine is supposed to prevent? (diarrhea, by the way)
    -Do you know what ingredients are in the polio vaccine? (sv40 virus known to cause cancer)
    -Are you familiar with how hepatitis B (that’s the one we give to newborns only hours old)is transmitted from person to person? (it’s an STD)
    -Are you aware that patients recently vaccinated with live virus vaccines-such as chicken pox, MMR and flu- are recommended not to be around immuno-compromised patients because the virus can shed? It says so in the vaccine info insert.(It’s interesting that you are afraid of a non-vaccinated child transmitting measles to a pregnant teacher. She should actually be more worried about that happening with a recently vaccinated child)
    -Are you familiar with any contraindications for getting the flu vaccine? Pregnancy and nursing. The vaccine insert clearly states that the vaccine has not been tested for safety in pregnant or nursing women. Yet doctors are pushing- no, bullying- pregnant women to take this vaccine. If you are worried about pregnant teachers, give them THIS info.

  9. This article cites a measles outbreak 25 years ago that killed 120 people. Just to put things in perspective, according to the CDC, in the year 2010 (the most recent year that accurate info is available)576,691 people (!) died from cancer. That’s not a typo. Check it out. And with all the vaccine-pushing, you gotta wonder why cancer rates are skyrocketing…

  10. If you are vaccinating your children because vaccines are protective, you shouldn’t have an issue with me not vaccinating. As for the pregnant teacher, if she is vaccinated shouldn’t she be protected? And if she is not vaccinated, how can you tell me to take the risk and vaccinate if she won’t?! Besides, forget about the kids whose parents don’t vaccinate them. You will find unvaccinated people in any public area (think airports, malls, simchos, supermarkets): Anyone born before the 1950’s, adults whose immunity wore off, immigrants (do the pregnant teachers ask their mexican housekeepers for their immunization records?)are all not immune to measles. If you can tell me that these worried pregnant teachers closet themselves in their house and go out just to teach then we can sit down and talk about the unvaccinated children in school. Actually that wouldn’t work either- the school director over the age of 60 and the janitor and all co teachers are probably not immune either. So unless you live in a bubble-or take measures to build your immune system naturally- you got a problem.

  11. Hey #1, the doctor who “discovered” the autism link admitted to lying in that study, and was actually stripped of his PhD and forbidden to ever practice medicine again. Is the complete eradication of polio, smallpox, and several other diseases from the u.s. and the world considered “no scientific proof”? I would say that the vanishing of previously widespread and deadly diseases is pretty good proof.

  12. The autism charge has been debunked so many times it is frustrating to see it come up again. The British journal that published the original “study” removed the article. The author was put in jail for fraud – not just for his faked “research” but for other forms of quackery as well. There is substantial evidence of a cause for autism that starts in utero. There may be physical signs that can be seen in newborns. It’s time to look at real science and not just that stuff you read on the internet!

  13. I will trust in the messengers of HASHEM, the professional and frum doctors of our community who encourage and advocate immunizations.

  14. Kick them all out of school. Unless they can cite MEDICAL reasons for not vaccinating, such as a proven allergy to THAT vaccine (or currently getting chemo) they should be forced to homeschool. Otherwise YOUR erroneous choice is forcing many kids to stay home from school- them getting the measles could be deadly.

  15. Wakefield recanted his falsified study. He was going to actually make MILLIONS off of proving the link. He had “tests” and “remedies” ready to sell. And he’d be the “expert” so would get paid for his “wisdom”. Biased? Can you trust someone who was this biased???

  16. Kick them all out of school. Force them to homeschool- they are making many homeschool because if they get the measles they will die.

  17. To all who claim DR Andrew Wakefield is in jail,can you provide proof of court ruling, or do I have to pay you a ticket to Taxes to see him a free man in his office?

    Do you still trust that man in a white coat who sold that bubbe mayse.

    Maybe you look up DR Paul Thorson, the father of studies “proving”no link between between Autism & Vaccines, he ran of with millions $ of federal funds. That’s who the CDC trusts, should we too?