A devout Christian heard an urgent news report on his radio that a flash flood was within minutes of entering the peaceful valley where he lived. Immediately he went to his knees and prayed for safety. The words were still on his lips when he became aware that water was gushing under his door. He retreated to the second floor and finally onto the roof of his house.
While he sat on the roof, a helicopter flew by and the pilot asked over the loudspeaker if they could lift him off. “It’s not necessary since I have the Lord’s protection,” he replied.
Moments later the house began to break up and he found himself clinging to a tree. A police boat, braving the waters, approached him for rescue, but he assured them that the Lord would save him. Finally, the tree gave way and the man went to his death.
Standing before the Lord, he asked, “Lord, I’m glad to be here, but why didn’t You answer my prayer for safety?”
The Lord responded, “Son, I told you over the radio to get out of there Then I sent you a helicopter and a motor boat!”
– Old joke, author unknown
Beginning in the 1980′s, there began to be an increasing drumbeat of people refusing to vaccinate their babies or children. Sadly, many of them were theologically conservative Christians. The arguments used from back then to today were, and are, various. One of them was that the chance of having a side effect from the vaccination was greater than that of getting the disease. Actually, that was statistically true, but completely invalid–more on that later. Then there was the false vaccination and autism link. Despite the fact that the early study has now been disproven by several studies, you will still find parents that will talk about that link and refuse to believe the more detailed studies. They have given in to a form of conspiracy theory thinking in which somehow the contradiction of the earlier study is a conspiracy. One must ask, a conspiracy against what? Many began to use the idea that it was their religious belief, because schools were denying their unvaccinated children entry–except for the religious belief exemption. The fact that no large Christian body has come out against vaccinations does not seem to impede these folks. Neither does the fact that there is nothing in Scripture that bears that interpretation.
At first, of course, the lack of vaccinating children worked. Unvaccinated children were not getting sick. The explanation for that was thought of back in 1933 in a concept that came to be called herd immunity. There have been papers written about it. The abstract of one says:
An understanding of the relationship between the transmission dynamics of infectious agents and herd immunity provides a template for the design of effective control programmes based on mass immunization. Mathematical models of the spread and persistence of infection provide important insights into the problem of how best to protect the community against disease.
In other words, this is a well researched area. What is boils down to is that if most of a herd is vaccinated, then those diseases that are transmitted through things like airborne droplets, feces, etc., will have their chains of transmission broken by the high number of immune individuals. For most of the transmissible diseases, that threshhold is around 85%, though some require a higher threshhold. In other words, if 85% or above of a community is immunized, the chances of your unimmunized child getting one of the childhood diseases is close to nothing. So, those early rejecters of vaccination saw their children grow up and not catch a childhood illness. This fed the myth that vaccinations were nowadays unnecessary.
Needless to say, there are those who also reject the concept of herd immunity. You need only search in Google to find those individuals whose arguments appear to destroy the idea of herd immunity. They call it yet another conspiracy to get you vaccinated. But, the proof is in the pudding.
As you know, I work in a hospital. This means that periodically I go to infectious diseases continuing education. And guess, which diseases have numbers that are beginning to climb? Both influenza caused by Haemophilus and meningitis caused by Neisseria bacteria are beginning to climb among children in certain parts of the country. Which parts are those? The parts in which the percentage of vaccinated people has fallen below the threshhold for herd immunity.
In other words, the theory of herd immunity is being proved upon the bodies of our unvaccinated children.
Because we are dealing with children, I am going to be uncharacteristically blunt. No major Christian group has a statement about children not being vaccinated. If you decide to not vaccinate your children, please do not say that this is a result of your Christian beliefs. Please attribute it to something else. And, to be even more blunt, if your unvaccinated child gets ill of a preventable childhood disease, do not blame God or ask Him why this happened. It happened because of you.