(NaturalNews) The following pediatrician's commentary attacking vaccine religious exemptions was published online in Raleigh's News & Observer (N&O) on February 24, 2012. As the N&O failed to publish my response, I'm publishing it here, where fairness is welcome. It follows the pediatrician's article immediately below.
As a practicing pediatrician and internist, it makes sense to me that if the government can mandate that all insurers cover contraceptives, even institutions that opposed such treatment on religious grounds, then it follows logically that government should also mandate all children be immunized regardless of the parents' stated religious convictions.
This is a significant statement because most state laws, as in North Carolina, mandate that any child attending public school must be immunized; the only way out of this is if the parents claim they are opposed to immunizations on religious grounds. But as any pediatrician will tell you, the vast majority of these parents who make this claim have no such religious conviction; for a variety of non-religious reasons, they just don't want to immunize their kids. So they intentionally mislead providers (with a wink) so that we sign off on their kids' kindergarten physical so they can get the benefit of a free public education without being immunized.
There is currently a pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak in a private school in Chapel Hill that, not surprisingly, has a large number of unimmunized kids. These infected kids, until they are diagnosed and treated, expose other children in and outside the school to whooping cough, including unprotected infants who have not yet completed their vaccine series, and it is these susceptible small children who really suffer and/or die from such diseases - ones that are preventable if only some other parents' child had been vaccinated.
Perhaps this irresponsible choice should no longer be protected as a religious exemption. But I imagine it will remain under First Amendment protection as such a change in law would lead to quite an outcry of protest, the kind of outcry perhaps also justified by the Catholic Church.
James Kurz, Pittsboro The length limit was waived. -----
Dear Dr. Kurtz:
Thank you for your comments. I didn't realize that NC pediatricians have psychic powers (know what all exempting North Carolinian parents' religious beliefs are) and are legal experts (know what qualifies for a vaccine religious exemption, and therefore, can be sure that their psychic subjects don't qualify for one). Even more amazing, though, was the lack of knowledge your comments displayed in your claimed area of expertise. To explain:
1) As for knowing others' beliefs, that speaks for itself -- you don't. Your assertion is pure conjecture and has no place in a serious discussion. To say that you are concerned that some religious exemptions may be disingenuous would be reasonable; anything more is sheer bigotry.
2) As to what qualifies legally for a religious exemption, that requires study of state and federal legal precedent, statutes and regulations, and sufficient legal training to be able to put that study into proper legal perspective. Yes, facts don't necessarily require credentials -- truth speaks for itself -- but non-referenced assertions are nothing more than uninformed personal opinions, as my next section reveals.
3) As for the blame you assign to exempt children:
A. The CDC tells us that 5% - 15% of vaccinated children are not immune. JAMA tells us that only 1% - 2.5% of children are exempt. Furthermore, unvaccinated children can develop natural immunity, and according to the CDC, may not even develop symptoms in the process. So, vaccination status is not an indicator of immune status, and exempt kids are at most a negligible concern given the far greater number of non-immune, vaccinated kids. Indeed, this is why the CDC reports that most outbreaks occur in vaccinated children. If you're worried about outbreaks caused by non-immune kids, the first step should be to test the vaccinated kids, so we can quarantine all of the non-immune ones, since outbreaks are clearly due to them most of the time.
B. Pertussis typically runs in 3-4 year cycles (for unknown reasons); exemptions don't. So, pertussis outbreaks can't be attributed to exempt kids at all.
C. Well over 50% of Americans are adult baby boomers who haven't been vaccinated in decades. Vaccine immunity lasts only 2-10 years, but infectious diseases haven't returned. In fact, research has proven that vaccine antibodies do not guarantee disease immunity, and that the herd immunity theory isn't reliable, so the entire theoretical foundation of vaccination may be flawed.
The bottom line is that exempt children pose no significant health risk to anyone, and your accusations are based on false assumptions and misplaced.
Your beliefs typify those of the pediatric community not because they are correct, but because yours is a profession driven by politics, and not objective science. Few to none of the commonly held assumptions about vaccines withstand strict scientific scrutiny. I invite you to subvert professional conformity to scientific objectivity, to investigate the matter personally for yourself, and to form your own, independent conclusions. You'll risk the condemnation of your peers for the mere act of daring to think for for yourself, but that's a small price to pay to be free of the manipulative reach of political agendas and fully within your own personal integrity. Whatever your conclusions about any given piece of the larger controversy, if you look openly and objectively, I guarantee you will never be the same. I also guarantee that you will be discouraged from questioning the status quo by most of your peers; that in and of itself speaks volumes about the need for more of you to do so.
 See, e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vaccines and Immunizations, Glossary, "Asymptomatic infection: The presence of an infection without symptoms. Also known as inapparent or subclinical infection. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/about/terms/glossary.htm"
 Forced Vaccinations, Government and the Public Interest (Part I), Is herd immunity real? Russell Blaylock, M.D., Neurosurgeon, The Epoch Times, January 28, 2010
 See, e.g., Antibodies Do Not Equal Immunity: Mumps Outbreak In 95% Vaccinated Population here (citing the British Medical Journal); and Antibody Theory (citing published studies in Neurology, the New England Journal of Medicine, Proceedings of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine, the British Medical Council Publication, and the Journal of the American Medical Association, among others).