Lotenschtein: Dispatches from Tel Aviv: No vaccination against ignorance of anti-vaxxers

Living in Israel has made the dangerous nonsense of the anti-vax movement, especially its religious ties, all the more clear to this DI columnist.

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Lotenschtein: Dispatches from Tel Aviv: No vaccination against ignorance of anti-vaxxers

Photo Illustration by James Year

Photo Illustration by James Year

James Year

Photo Illustration by James Year

James Year

James Year

Photo Illustration by James Year

Madison Lotenschtein, Opinions Columnist

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After recent outbreaks of the measles virus, anti-vaxxers and their mindless regime have made headlines in the United States. They have caused those in power to construct laws that rescind the religious exemption of vaccinations and have caused an overall disruption in public-health discourse. While the trend of refusing vaccination and risking the lives of all people continues to thrive in the land of the free, Israel also has struggled with measles outbreaks, most of which can be traced back to its orthodox community. 

A few days before my departure to the Holy Land, I received a notification on my phone. It read, “WARNING: measles outbreak in Israel. Make sure you have the MMR vaccine.” I looked up from my phone, irritated at the country I so loved. From my time spent in Israel and of course, the U.S., I’ve realized an ongoing parallel between religious Christians and Jews choosing not to vaccinate their children. 

In Judaism, the health and well-being of one’s self is of the utmost priority. Washing your hands before meals and keeping Kosher are the best and most popular examples of ties between Judaism and health. But part of Jewish law instructs its followers to avoid taking chances. Orthodox Jews consider receiving vaccinations to be some “risky business,” because of the extremely small yet non zero chance an adverse reaction will occur. Also, one can easily avoid vaccinating because Israel’s immunization laws are, for lack of a better word, more relaxed, than those in the U.S.

I have yet to get into a debate with an anti-vaxxer in Israel, but from my several encounters in Iowa, the principal excuses for anti-vax Christians remain to be: “It’s not natural, and it’s all in God’s hands,” or “It makes children autistic or kills them,” or the real kicker, “I’ve done my research.”

I have questioned the reason so many Christians are anti-vax because Christianity is a religion that doesn’t have “health-based” laws like Judaism or Islam. But nowhere, in any of Abrahamic religious texts, does it say to not provide medical care for your children. And because that’s the case, all “religious” exemptions should be abolished, everywhere.

I am not saying that all religious Christians and Jews are anti-vax, I’m simply observing the innate parallels between the masses who do hold resentment toward modern medicine. Religion should dictate one’s morals, culture, and the way they treat others. It should not be the deciding factor of whether one should vaccinate one’s children. It simply doesn’t qualify as a factor, because religion has nothing to do with science.

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