Tag: Christian Science

Are Kids With Religious Exemptions Spreading Disease?

One common anti-vax talking point is that kids who are unvaccinated can’t spread disease because they aren’t sick. One lawsuit against New York’s new vaccine law went so far as to say that “there has not been one instance of a child with a religious exemption spreading disease in a school.”

Did Assemblymember Colton look for evidence?

Is that true?

I’m guessing it isn’t, but let’s do a little research…

Are Kids With Religious Exemptions Spreading Disease?

Before I considered the latest measles outbreak in New York and how many of those cases occurred in unvaccinated kids in school with religious exemptions, I found a few other examples.

“During April 4-May 17, 1994, the largest U.S. measles outbreak since 1992 occurred among students in two communities that do not routinely accept vaccination. This report summarizes the investigation of and control measures for this outbreak. The outbreak began in a 14-year-old Christian Science high school student who developed a rash on April 4, 2 weeks after skiing in Colorado where a measles outbreak was occurring. The student lived with her family in a community associated with a Christian Science college in Jersey County, Illinois, and commuted approximately 30 miles to a Christian Science boarding school (kindergarten through grade 12 {K-12}) in St. Louis County, Missouri.”

Outbreak of Measles Among Christian Science Students — Missouri and Illinois, 1994

At least 189 people got measles in these communities during this outbreak, including a student in New York.

“Eighteen prospective students from outside St. Louis County attended a carnival at the boarding school on April 16; eight developed measles after returning home (three to Maine, two to California, and one each to Missouri, New York, and Washington).”

Outbreak of Measles Among Christian Science Students — Missouri and Illinois, 1994

During another measles outbreak among Christian Scientists in 1985 in Illinois, there were at least 136 cases, including 3 deaths.

There were even more deaths during a measles outbreak in Philadelphia in 1991.

“According to Assistant Health Commissioner Robert Sharrar, four victims from Philadelphia – two girls 9 years old and two girls 11 and 13 – were affiliated with the Faith Tabernacle Congregation, which shuns medical treatment. The children, who attended the church’s school, had not been vaccinated. “

Philadelphia’s Measles Death Toll Rises

By the end of the 1991 Philly outbreak, 9 children were dead.

Back to New York, during a 2009 mumps outbreak in New York and New Jersey, even though many were vaccinated, “the outbreak primarily has affected members of a tradition-observant religious community.”

Are there any other examples?

Four children in Florida with a religious exemption developed measles in 2012 and although they didn’t get anyone at school sick, they did likely expose someone at an Orlando-area theme park who did later get sick.

Also in Florida, in 2013, in a charter school where 84% of kids had religious exemptions, 316 students developed pertussis, with attack rates of 57%!

What’s the usual attack rate for pertussis?

In another Florida outbreak in 2013, this one at a preschool, attack rates ranged from 23% for kids who were up-to-date on their pertussis vaccinations to 40% if they had fewer than three doses of a pertussis vaccine.

At the Asheville Waldorf School in North Carolina, at least 36 students got sick with chickenpox in 2018. The school had the highest rate of religious exemptions in the state.

And there was an outbreak in Alaska linked to religious exemptions.

“Among the 30 who were not vaccinated, 24 (80%) were eligible to be vaccinated (i.e., aged ≥ 12 months and born on or after January 1, 1957); of the 24 who were eligible to be vaccinated, all 12 school-aged children had religious exemptions, and two of nine children aged 1–4 years were siblings of these unvaccinated schoolchildren. Although no source case was identified, this outbreak coincided with a measles outbreak associated with the Seattle-Tacoma (Washington) airport, the major airport gateway to Juneau.”

Measles Outbreak Among School-Aged Children — Juneau, Alaska, 1996

Remember the last imported case of vaccine associated paralytic polio?

In 2005, an unvaccinated 22-year-old U.S. college student from Arizona became infected with polio vaccine virus while traveling in Costa Rica in a university-sponsored study-abroad program. She had never been vaccinated because she had a religious exemption.

How about the last cases of wild polio in the United States?

“The 1979 outbreak occurred in unvaccinated Amish persons living in Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Overall, 15 cases of illness caused by wild poliovirus type 1 occurred among U.S. citizens: all 10 paralytic cases occurred among unvaccinated Amish persons; three cases of transient paralysis occurred among unvaccinated Amish persons; and two nonparalytic cases occurred among unvaccinated members of the Mennonite church who were in frequent contact with Amish persons. Epidemiologic and virologic evidence indicated this outbreak resulted from importation of poliovirus from the Netherlands through Canada (Ontario), where outbreaks had occurred during 1978 in members of religious groups with objections to vaccination.”

Poliomyelitis — United States, Canada

It was in 1979.

It was among the Amish and may have been linked to religious exemptions, although many Amish got vaccinated to help eliminate the endemic spread of polio in the United States.

Before that, in 1972, there was an outbreak of paralytic polio at Daycroft, a Chris­tian Science boarding school in Greenwich, Connecticut. At least 12 students, all unvaccinated, were affected in the first polio epidemic in the US in seven years.

11 kids got paralytic polio at a Christian Science school in 1972.

Also among the Amish, an outbreak of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 1991, including 16 cases in New York.

“The outcome of pregnancy was determined for the 94 Amish mothers who reported illness or had serologic evidence of maternal rubella (Table 1). CRS occurred in 10 infants, all of whom were born to mothers who had histories of rubella-like illness in the first trimester; seven had possible manifestations of CRS; nine were miscarried/stillborn; and 68 infants appeared normal at birth. During the study period, medical personnel identified one additional infant with CRS from Lancaster County whose mother was a conservative Mennonite. “

Congenital Rubella Syndrome Among the Amish — Pennsylvania, 1991-1992

There have also been cases of tetanus among the Amish.

“In 1997 a 12-year-old Amish boy in Pennsylvania contracted tetanus. His medical bills were $600,000. The Amish community refused to apply for Medicaid because of their religious opposition to accepting government assistance and were able to pay only $60,000 of the bill.”

Some Outbreaks of Vaccine-Preventable Disease in Groups with Religious or Philosophical Exemptions to Vaccination

More recently, the measles outbreaks in New York occurred almost exclusively among completely unvaccinated children, including many school aged children.

“Persons who claim exemptions from immunizations for any reason may be at increased risk of contracting a VPD compared with immunized persons. In addition, persons who claim philosophical and/or religious exemptions (exemptors) may create some risk to the community because unvaccinated or undervaccinated persons may be a source of transmission.”

Salmon et al on Health Consequences of Religious and Philosophical Exemptions From Immunization Laws

Remember diphtheria?

You probably think that it has been a long, long time since a child has died from diphtheria in the United States, especially since we have had an effective vaccine for well over one hundred years.

Well, it has been a long time since anyone who was vaccinated has died…

Tragically, in 1982, a 9-year-old girl died after getting diphtheria at a Christian Science camp in Colorado.

Even more recently, an unvaccinated 4-year-old boy died in Massachusetts died with diphtheria. His mother was a Christian Scientist.

It should be very clear that kids with non-medical exemptions, including religious exemptions, are getting sick and are spreading disease.

We should have acted in 2007, instead of waiting for more and more kids to get sick in outbreaks, as non-medical exemptions to continued to increase.
We should have acted in 2007, instead of waiting for more and more kids to get sick in outbreaks, as non-medical exemptions to continued to increase.

Increasing in the post-Wakefield era, religious exemptions from immunizations put our kids at risk.

More on Kids With Religious Exemptions Spreading Disease

Can You Go to Jail for Not Vaccinating Your Kids?

Believe it or not, parents have been jailed for not vaccinating their kids.

In a recent Michigan case, a mother was jailed for refusing a court order to vaccinate her son. The court had agreed with the boy’s father that the child should be vaccinated and protected.

So this case was not just about vaccines, but about divorced parents who disagreed about how to care for their child…

Can You Go to Jail for Not Vaccinating Your Kids?

Although it isn’t common, historically, there have been other stories of parents going to jail for not vaccinating their kids.

Parents in Maryland were surprised that they might face jail time for not vaccinating their kids.
Parents in Maryland were surprised that they might face jail time for not vaccinating their kids.

Recently, in 2007, parents were warned that they might be sent to jail for not vaccinating their kids. The problem wasn’t just vaccines though, as these parents could have gotten exemptions. And they had several months to do so before the Judge gave his warning…

No one went to jail in Maryland in 2007.

Have you ever heard of John (Jack) Marsh?

Going to jail for not vaccinating his kids became routine for John Marsh.

In 1946, he was put in jail and his daughter, Betty Jane, was taken by child welfare services so that she could get a smallpox vaccine. His son Marlin was also to be taken, but couldn’t be found.

What happened next? We don’t know. That was the last report about John Marsh and his family.

We do know a lot about what happened before this though…

John Marsh was first jailed in 1937 for not vaccinating his kids.

John Marsh’s story started nearly 12 years earlier!

In 1934, he spent 7 months in jail because he wouldn’t vaccinate his children Daniel and Lorna. As in 1946, those children were taken and vaccinated and Marsh was released.

John Marsh was again jailed in 1937 for not vaccinating his kids.

He was also put in prison in 1937 over getting his son Eugene vaccinated.

John Marsh was jailed over and over from 1937 to 1940 because he wouldn't vaccinate his kids.

Why was he against vaccinating his kids?

John Marsh believed that his nieces were vaccine injured.
John Marsh believed that his nieces were vaccine injured.

He believes that a smallpox vaccine caused two of his nieces to go blind. One of them became blind about two weeks after getting her smallpox vaccine. Two weeks later, her sister also became blind. And then another.

What could have affected these girls in 1925 besides Mildred’s smallpox vaccine? Trachoma was once a common cause of blindness in the United States and it was quite contagious.

Even though two weren’t even vaccinated, the family still thinks that they all suffered from some kind of vaccine injury.

“The infrequency of eye involvement following vaccination is very striking when we consider the number of vac­cinations, the doubtful handling that many receive, and the ease with which infection may be transferred.”

Arthur J. Bedell, M.D., F.A.C.S. on Multiple Vaccination of the Eyelids

Interestingly, ocular vaccinia is a known, rare complication of getting a smallpox vaccine. It could occur if you touched the site of vaccination and then touched your eye, and so could also occur if you were in close contact with someone who was recently vaccinated, as the Marsh sisters.

Unlike these girls though, the infection typically only involves one eye, would cause lesions suspicious for vaccinia in or near the eye, which were never mentioned, and often leaves obvious lid deformities.

And doctors did not believe that those girls had a reaction to the vaccine.

John Marsh never won any of his cases and his kids always ended up getting vaccinated...
John Marsh never won any of his cases and his kids always ended up getting vaccinated…

Are there any other cases of parents going to jail instead of vaccinating their kids?

In 1899, apparently there wasn't a religious exemption to getting vaccinated.
In 1899, apparently there wasn’t a religious exemption to getting vaccinated.
Yes, we had anti-vax chiropractors way back in 1926.
Yes, we had anti-vax chiropractors way back in 1926.
In 1942, Bowser's two children were admitted to a county Children's home and vaccinated, as they had never been to school.
In 1942, Bowser’s two children were admitted to a county Children’s home and vaccinated, as they had never been to school.
This was in 1924, but just like today, these parents didn't win their court case.
This was in 1924, but just like today, these parents didn’t win their court case.

Could any of this happen now?

We still have truancy laws and laws about kids getting vaccinated…

Jack Marsh had an alternative to going to jail over not vaccinating his kids...
Jack Marsh had an alternative to going to jail over not vaccinating his kids…

But no one wants parents to go to jail over vaccination decisions.

And no one wants kids to be forced to get vaccines.

Vaccination laws were being strictly enforced to try and control outbreaks and epidemics of smallpox, which still occurred in the 1920s and 30s.
Vaccination laws were being strictly enforced to try and control outbreaks and epidemics of smallpox, which still occurred in the 1920s and 30s.

We also don’t want kids to get sick and disease to spread because of ignorance and unnecessary fear of vaccines.

Who is scaring these parents in the first place?
What is scaring these parents in the first place?

Unfortunately, anti-vax folks create a viscous cycle.

As they scare more and more parents, they create pockets of susceptible children, and larger and larger outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, which eventually require stricter vaccine requirements and mandates to control.

More on Jail and Vaccines

Ellen Degeneres on Vaccines

Is Ellen Degeneres anti-vaccine?

Ellen Degeneres paid tribute to her dad, who recently died.
Ellen and her dad.

No, but in paying tribute to her father, who died in 2018, some folks may have gotten that idea.

“He was 92 years old.  He had a good, long life. And he lived his life exactly how he wanted. He was Christian Science his entire life. He never had medicine his whole life. He never went to a doctor. I never had a vaccination. We never had medicine growing up and he lived to be 92. He was very proud of me.”

Ellen

Although Ellen did not get vaccines growing up, she is no longer a Christian Scientist and she is not anti-vaccine.

Ellen helps make sure all of her staff get flu shots each year!
Ellen helps make sure all of her staff get flu shots each year!

She even encourages folks to get a flu vaccine each year!

I want to make sure everyone stays healthy, so I put together a little message:

Flu season is here and it’s not to late to get a flu shot. They’re safe, easy, and they’re not scary at all.

Ellen

That doesn’t sound like someone who is anti-vaccine, does it?

Ellen Degeneres on Vaccines

Religious Exemptions to Vaccination

Children are mandated to get vaccines in every state.

That doesn’t mean that they are forced to get vaccinated. It simply means that state laws mandate getting vaccines to attend daycare and school, etc.

In most states, parents have a way around these laws though vaccine exemptions.

Religious Exemptions to Vaccination

In addition to medical exemptions that are available in all states, 15 states allow personal belief exemptions to vaccinations.

And in 45 states, laws allow religious exemptions to vaccinations. That is all states except California, Maine, Mississippi, New York, and West Virginia.

Unfortunately, religious exemptions are often abused, especially in states that don’t allow personal belief exemptions.

How?

You can often get a religious exemption by simply stating that you object to immunization because of religious beliefs. The thing is that very few religions actually object to immunization.

Pope Francis helped launch a polio vaccine campaign when he visited Mexico in 2016.
Pope Francis helped launch a polio vaccine campaign when he visited Mexico in 2016.

So even if you aren’t a Christian Scientist, a member of a faith healing Christian church, or among the sects of Amish, Dutch reformed churches, or Muslim fundamentalists that don’t vaccinate, you can still get a religious exemption in most states.

Unless of course, you live in California, Maine, Mississippi, New York, or West Virginia.

More on Religious Exemptions to Vaccination