Ezekiel StephenBy Theodore Mattheiss

Opinion Editor

There are plenty of stupid opinions out there, but not many are stupider than the notion that vaccines cause autism, or that this belief is an excuse to avoid vaccinating your child against diseases that are as easily preventable as they are deadly.

David and Collet Stephen are a Canadian example of a couple who fell into the trappings of this line of thinking. Their ignorance of the importance of vaccines caused their child, Ezekiel Stephen, to die of meningitis in 2012, at just 19 months old.

Even when he was showing symptoms, the parents never took their son to a hospital, instead attempting to treat him at home with alternative medicine, including vitamins, hot sauce, and horseradish.

Ezekiel did not see a physician until two days before his death, and his disease had progressed hopelessly far.

In a court ruling in 2016, the mother received three months of house arrest, and the father four months of jail time. Both were also put on probation for three years and two years, respectively.

Their sentencing should have been much harsher for the role they played in Ezekiel’s death. The Stephens have three other children who face the same risk he did: their parents.

The removal of their children is a possibility that should have been considered. Furthermore, it’s an option that should be considered in any case involving parents whose failure to provide this basic and safe medical procedure results in the death of a child.

As if putting the health of their own kids at risk wasn’t enough, parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are actually putting the health of other kids at risk as well.

There are cases where it isn’t safe to vaccinate a particular child against diseases, and these vulnerable children rely on what’s called “herd immunity” to keep them safe. The only way they can avoid the disease in question is if everybody around them isn’t at risk of catching it and spreading it to them.

So how is the antivax movement fair to more responsible parents who actually value the well-being of their children? I fail to see the decision not to vaccinate as anything other than willful ignorance or counter-cultural lashing out, given the extensive prevalence of information that assures parents that vaccinations are the correct choice for their kids.

This particular story may seem old, but the antivax movement remains a problem today.

“A social movement of public health vaccine opposition has been growing in the United States in recent years; subsequently, measles outbreaks have also increased,” said Dr. Peter Hortez in Public Library of Science Medicine, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, this year.

In one Idaho county, a quarter of the children are unvaccinated due to the spread of this ignorance.

Meanwhile, a resurgence of measles in Europe has left 37 dead. More cases have been reported in the first half of 2018 than there were in all of 2017.

If you can’t take 10 minutes to do a little research and arrive at the logical conclusion that vaccines are safe and necessary, you’re not ready to be a parent.

The Elm

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