Is ignorance really bliss?

Published 9:12 am Friday, May 10, 2019

A Texas state lawmaker this week demonstrated by personal example that, indeed, a ham sandwich could win some elections when he offered that vaccinations are “sorcery.”

Yes, there are serious people who have real concerns about vaccinations and their risks, and there are parents who argue that vaccinations may cause autism or ADHD or other serious diseases in children.

But Texas lawmaker Jonathan Stickland is not exactly a thoughtful example of any reasoned argument.

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Stickland, who self identifies as a “Christian Conservative,” may not be doing Christian conservatives any favors by dragging them into his fantasy world of supernatural evils hidden in the vaccines that have saved 732,000 children from death and prevented 322 million children from contracting serious disease from 1994 to 2014, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Facts still matter and the facts indicate that the use of vaccines has saved lives, nearly ended many once-deadly diseases, truly ended smallpox in the world, and have done so with between 90-99 percent safety. Approximately 30,000 cases of adverse reactions to vaccines occur each year, with 10-15 percent of those reactions serious or even fatal.

So, when Stickland attacks pediatrician Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert and founder of the National School of Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine with his sorcery claim, he is the uneducated “know nothing” cheerleader battling knowledge and science with buffoonery.

Yes, the Internet allows anyone to find any argument defending any outrageous claim that can be made, but that does not offset research, knowledge, or experience. So unless, and until, knowledge no longer is a useful commodity in America, we are safe to assume that Hotez may know more about vaccines than Stickland.

Hotez recently argued that “…the children of Texas have been placed in harm’s way…” by those opposing vaccinations.

Serious opponents of vaccines have often cited religious reasons and, while all 50 states require vaccinations to attend public school, most states offer religious exemptions. And while such exemptions protect religious freedom, they may, unintentionally, trample the rights of all other parents. Individual rights advocates must also recognize that individual rights end when they impinge upon the freedom of others. In the case of vaccinations, if your right to not have your child vaccinated results in my child catching a serious disease, your rights have gone a step too far.

Consider the the growing number of measles cases reported this year in the United States.

As of May 3, 764 cases of measles have been reported, more reported cases than in 25 years. While there may be multiple explanations for this rise in measles, one driving factor is the “herd” proposition. The herd, that is the overall population, protects unvaccinated individuals when the vaccine is 97 percent effective and 90 percent or more of the population are vaccinated.

Simply said, the disease does not appear or transmit when almost everyone is vaccinated. But the herd solution fails when too many choose not to be vaccinated. And that is why today we do not need the Texas representative arguing the ignorance of “sorcery” on the very important issue of vaccinations.

Vaccinations prevent disease and the spread of disease that once plagued humanity. They are, in many ways, the first “miracle” drugs for the human race.

Those who have religious reasons can be accommodated as always but as a society we cannot encourage ignorance of the effectiveness of vaccines and awareness that there is virtually no evidence of any side effects of vaccines beyond those tracked by health experts.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.