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Turning a child into a ticking biological time-bomb isn’t an exercise of freedom, as the anti-vaccination flock would have you believe. It’s an ignorant assault on the social contract.

Idaho ranks second-to-last in the nation for vaccination levels among its kindergarteners, behind Oregon. Less than 60 percent of Idaho’s 2-year-olds are vaccinated, reports the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 11 percentage points below the national average.

It’s a cultural epidemic in the American West — Alaska, Washington state, Colorado and Arizona also top the list. It’s a trend founded not in science but in fear.

Six percent of Idaho’s youngest public school students haven’t been through the standard vaccination regime before entering school, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Just 52 percent of incoming students in Filer’s district have been inoculated.

The “back to Earth” movement is particularly widespread in the West. Romanticizing bygone days — when living to 35 was considered a ripe old-age — from a heated house near a paved highway under police protection is easy. Bubonic plague or a nasty flu isn’t going to wipe out half of your town, after all. Life expectancy has exploded in the developed world, a trend that directly correlates with the development of vaccines that turned rubella and polio into epidemiological history, reports the World Health Organization. Citizens in nations with low vaccination rates tout substantially lower life spans than those in wealthy, inoculated nations.

Non-vaccinators can thank vaccines for giving them the privilege to behave irrationally.

The rise of the anti-vaccine movement stems from a since-retracted 1998 British study in The Lancet, which linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine with autism. Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the study’s primary author, has been accused of rampant fraud and discredited in scientific circles because of ethical violations and financial conflicts of interest. But Wakefield empowered skeptics and contributed to a wholesale rejection of science, a phenomenon present throughout the American political fringe.

Fresh measles outbreaks now are sweeping across Wakefield’s native Great Britain, and tuberculosis is having a resurgence in the U.S.

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The fear-fueled movement embraces bad science and rejects the benefits of modern life. It’s a lifestyle that finds meaning in the “old ways” but ignores that those traditions are from a time before large cities and world-linking transportation. Ancient peoples would have no doubt welcomed a shot over chewing on some ineffective tree root.

Non-vaccinated people are breeding grounds for quickly evolving strains that could lay waste to a population. They’re walking Petri dishes, where otherwise under-control invaders can adapt and launch devastating offensives. Western liberty comes with responsibility, and endangering an entire community is poor citizenship, plain and simple.

Idaho sports one of the highest immunization exemption rates in the nation. The state has issued 1,400 exemptions, more than 1,100 for “philosophical” reasons.

Whether because of philosophical, religious or spiritual reasons, not vaccinating your children is a felonious sham.

If people want to buy Wakefield’s snake oil, so be it. Plenty of caves in Sub-Saharan Africa are available for rent.


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