Vaccinations not about ‘freedom’ (copy) (copy)

A single-dose vial of the measles-mumps-rubella virus vaccine. Outbreaks of measles and mumps have been documented across the United States in recent years. File/AP

After an outbreak of the mumps on campus, the College of Charleston plans to temporarily ban students from class if they haven’t had their shots.

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Which prompts the question: Why were they allowed to go in the first place?

The answer is, South Carolina doesn’t want to persecute anyone (well, almost anyone) for their “beliefs.” Because, freedom.

Of course, freedom is a matter of perspective, since the state allows the misguided and misinformed to freely expose everyone else to highly contagious, infectious diseases.

Which sometimes happens when people don’t get the MMR vaccine to prevent the measles, mumps and rubella. So, way to go, South Carolina.

On Monday, the college announced that it discovered the first case of the mumps on campus Sept. 17, and confirmed two others before alerting the public. Three cases in such a small area is considered an outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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About 20 years ago, childhood vaccinations had practically eradicated measles and the mumps in the United States. And then some British guy published a report — later proven to be fraudulent — that claimed vaccinations caused autism.

Since then, some celebrities, religious types and low-information bloggers have repeated this malarkey over the internet. Now, thousands of people don’t get their kids inoculated. Nearly 200 C of C students submitted waivers to avoid vaccination.

You know, it’s amazing how some people are suspicious of every scientifically documented fact they hear today, yet have no problem making serious life choices because of something Zeke posted on the Facebook.

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South Carolina public schools require children to have MMR vaccinations, as well as a couple of others, before attending classes. But they also allow for medical and religious exemptions, which means anyone can get around the law.

And — surprise — in the past decade, as these anti-vax conspiracy theories have spread like polio in the ’40s, the number of people claiming such an exception has tripled.

Last year, there were more than 796,000 students in South Carolina public schools, and more than 11,000 cited religious reasons for not getting shots. In Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties, the numbers amount to a little more than 1 percent of students.

That’s not a lot of children, but it’s enough. Just a small percentage of people skipping immunizations has led to outbreaks of measles and mumps in a half-dozen states over the past few years.

Not getting the MMR vaccination means a person is much more likely to contract — and spread — those diseases. And even folks who’ve had the shot can contract mild versions of the mumps.

Doctors say this isn’t always about ideology; some parents simply won’t take their kids to the health department. But for some people, on the far right and the far left, this borders on zealotry … for different reasons. All of which make about as much sense as the Flat Earth Society that claims it has members “around the globe.”

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It doesn’t matter how many medical researchers or studies say there’s no danger in vaccines, these folks will tell you they know best.

A few years ago, the Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics published a report on people who choose not to vaccinate their children. It said, “These choices are not the byproduct of ignorance but rather the intentional and calculated decision related to a staunch conviction.”

Staunch convictions, mind you, that suspiciously only developed after a charlatan perpetrated a scheme to make money. He ought to be in politics.

If this only affected people who chose not to have vaccinations, you could write it off as Darwinism. But not vaccinating children is playing with everyone’s health.

It wouldn’t be much different if  South Carolina allowed people to drive without a license or practice medicine without a degree because it ran contrary to someone’s beliefs.

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Fact is, personal freedom should end where it affects someone else. That’s why the state of New York recently made it illegal for kids to attend public schools without first getting immunized.

Some people complained that law infringes on their beliefs, of course. For too many folks, it’s not freedom until they’re foisting their life choices — and inherently dangerous ideas — on everybody.

Too bad there’s not a shot for that.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.