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Do We Owe it to Our Neighbors to Vaccinate Our Kids?

Alex Crain
Alex Crain
2015 3 Feb

(The face of a boy after three days with measles rash: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

A measles outbreak traced to Disneyland has sparked a new wave of outrage toward parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. While 95% of the national US population has been vaccinated against the measles (see this from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), certain communities dip below the 90% range, which CDCP considers to be acceptable "herd immunity" for a population to maintain.  

Reasons vary as to why parents opt out of vaccinations. "People say there's only two camps, the pro-vaccination camp and the anti-vaccination camp, and anyone who's anti-vaccination isn't that smart," says Meghan Van Vleet, a former naturopath and a parent of two in Boulder. "But there’s not two camps; there’s like 50 camps."

Christian author and professor, Denny Burk, turns the question of vaccination into a moral one for Christians, asking pointedly: “Do we owe it to our neighbors to vaccinate our kids?” Burk highlights the following quote from a Washington Post article by Michael Gerson:

“Whether hipsters or home-schoolers, parents who don’t vaccinate are free riders.

Their children benefit from herd immunity without assuming the very small risk of adverse reaction to vaccination. It is a game that works — until too many play it.”

Your turn: Are non-vaccinating parents “free riders?” Are Christian parents who withhold vaccinating their children endangering public safety? If so, is that crossing a moral line? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com. You can read more posts by Alex at his blog and follow him on Twitter @alex_crain.