Measles is a potentially fatal viral infection. It is not what most visitors to Disneyland expect to bring home. Mouse ears and tired feet are the usual fruits of the "happiest place on earth."
This is where I get upset. Kids should not get sick because their parents, in their ignorance, choose not to vaccinate. I am sorry, but there is no excuse for this lapse of understanding. It is particularly frustrating if the parental position is taken out of a feeling of moral superiority.
Why do sanctimonious parents foolishly believe a comedian and an ex-Playboy bunny over millions of examples of disease-free children? On this issue, Jim Carrey is not funny. Jenny McCarthy's stance is not beautiful.
In the words of Time magazine's Jeffrey Kluger, who is driving "the anti-vaccine clown car”?
Well-intentioned parents will make sure their kids have vitamins in the morning, wear a warm coat in the winter and always stay buckled up in cars. Why, then, do they skip protecting their beloved sons and daughters against illnesses that can kill and cripple? There has to be some mental disconnect within parents who will sacrifice life and limb for their children but who will not allow for simple immunizations.
There is so much misinformation and outright fraud that parents are accepting. It is forgivable if parents forget to pack an apple in their children's lunch pails from time to time. It is understandable that they may be a little late to pick up their children’s car pools. However, it is not excusable to tempt disease.
People preaching against vaccines in the U.S. are no different from leaders in Nigeria, Mali or Niger telling their followers that polio drops are instruments of Western powers designed to sterilize Muslims. Both result in crippling epidemics.
When one hears about the measles outbreak among affluent Americans due to parental wrong choices, it makes the killing of vaccine workers in Pakistan by militants that much more tragic. According to an article in The New York Times in November of last year, 65 anti-polio workers in Pakistan lost their lives between December 2012 and the time of the article's publication.
What is it about fundamentalists, both in Pakistan and in the U.S., that prompts them to think that vaccines are a sinister government plot? Here, at least, we don’t kill the pediatricians and nurses who encourage protecting children from communicable diseases.
We all cheer parental rights. But where are the rights of children to be protected? Rights do not extend to wrongs.
If we were to learn that a parent beats his or her child, society would rise up in arms to protect the victim and punish the perpetrator. What if a preventable disease, instead of a club or a fist, hits the child? Why don’t we act as resolutely?
This national outbreak is a national embarrassment. We have more cases of measles than some third-world dictatorships.
Am I upset? I certainly am. I will not hide behind false niceties. I don’t like kids getting sick. I am tired of the excuses and the harming of children in the name of arrogance and self-righteousness.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician, fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing physician for 30 years and a hospitalist at Primary Children's Hospital and the University of Utah. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org