Measles Outbreak in Anti-vaccine Church: What’s the real story here?

These past few weeks there’s been a lot of media attention regarding the measles outbreak in Northern Texas. Roughly 20 people — mostly un-vaccinated or under-vaccinated individuals — have come down with the measles, ranging in age from 4 months to 44 years. And all of them have been traced back to a single church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Once word got out that the Eagle Mountain Church’s founder Kenneth Copeland had discouraged congregants from being vaccinated in the past, articles started popping up on MSN, Associated Press, and USA Todaytelling the sensational story of an anti-vaccine mega-church coming face-to-face with the consequences of collapsed herd immunity.

All of this is true, but is it really the story we should be focusing on?

In the wake of the outbreak, the church has done an about-face. Its leadership is now encouraging its members to get vaccinated against the measles and has even hosted vaccination clinics at the church. While some news organizations and bloggers have chosen to berate the church leadership for misleading its congregants, this article by Brad Hirschfield in the Washington Post, however, highlighted what pro-vaccine advocates should really be focusing on:

Now here’s the important question we need to ask: Is now time to gloat, to mock the backtracking that the church is doing, or to accuse their pastor (Copeland’s daughter) of hypocrisy because she is now advocating for more vaccinations? Absolutely not!

It’s time to appreciate that both the vast majority of us who support vaccination, and the small minority that oppose it, want the same thing – safe kids. It’s time instead to help those who are reversing course to appreciate that their previously held abstract fears all fall away in the face of the very real human costs of indulging them. It’s time to point out that even if the concerns vaccine opponents have may have any legitimacy, as they think they do, those concerns pale in comparison with the enormous costs of not vaccinating.

This story is an important reminder that when we allow real human experience, in this case, real people with real disease, to triumph over theoretical concerns and ideological dogma, we are the better, and the healthier, for it. Some of us may be slower than others to learn that lesson, but it’s more important to learn it and to help others do the same, than it is to argue about why it wasn’t learned more quickly.

And we agree. Instead of gloating or wagging our fingers, we vaccine supporters should be applauding the Eagle Mountain’s leadership for now recognizing the importance of vaccination and encouraging congregants to be immunized.

This outbreak has been a demonstration of what can happen when herd immunity drops below the threshold needed for keeping these serious diseases at bay. We were fortunate that the outbreak didn’t spread further and that more people weren’t hurt by it. That reality should not be understated.

But hearts and minds will not be won by saying “I told you so.”

We can dwell on the mistakes made and consequences suffered . Or we can take them as a lesson learned, and praise a community for coming together to do what’s right to protect the future health and safety of their families. In the end, what’s the more important story to tell?

TIP Staff Spotlight Series: A Nurse’s Perspective

Alana asked each of us here at The Immunization Partnership to write a little about how we got here and why we do what we do. This week we continue the series with Danielle, Director of Operations.

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Danielle Hughes, RN MBA | Director of Operations

I’ve known I wanted to be a nurse since I was 16 years old.

My grandmother was a licensed vocational nurse. She worked in a nursing home taking care of geriatric patients. In her fifties, she became ill and slipped into a diabetic coma. She was never able to care for herself afterwards, so my mother reluctantly placed her in a nursing facility close to our home.

Being so close enabled us to check on her daily, but it also gave me my first glimpse into the field of patient care. I drove to the nursing home on Saturdays and spent hours assisting the nurses with my grandmother. I would also help to feed, bathe, and walk the other residents. I truly enjoyed being around the nursing home residents and learning from the nurses who patiently cared for the elderly population.

I believe this experience served two purposes. First, visiting the nursing home so frequently reassured me in knowing my grandmother was receiving the best care possible while in the nursing home and helped to decrease my mother’s anxieties. Secondly, volunteering at the nursing home opened the door and shaped my career as a registered nurse.

I have since worked in healthcare for the past 18 years. As a registered nurse, I’ve had the privilege of taking care of some of the most vulnerable adults and critically ill children. I have also played an instrumental role in assisting hospitals transition from paper documentation into an electronic health record.  In all of my experiences, what I know about myself is that I have a need and compassion to help people.

I am the mother of two beautiful and active children. I’ve always been diligent about scheduling my children’s well-child exams and ensuring their immunizations were up to date. Unfortunately, there are persons in our community who are not as diligent. Due to misinformation, misunderstanding, or plain complacency, they choose not to immunize. What these parents are not considering is the fact that their decisions also impact the health and well-being of other children and vulnerable adults in our community.

Working at The Immunization Partnership provides me the opportunity to advocate and address the misinformation and misunderstanding people may have about immunizations every day. We believe in collaborating with our peers in the community in an effort to focus on the promotion of health and wellness for children and adults.

I think about the mission and vision of our organization. I know without question that by working for The Immunization Partnership, lives are changed every day.  There is no doubt that we are positively impacting people who are trying to make sound healthcare decisions for their children and themselves. Through our efforts to educate the community about the importance of immunizations, these parents come to understand why it is critical to protect their family and community from vaccine preventable diseases.

Blogust ’13

We like sharing good ideas. And this year, we think Shot@Life has a great one.

In honor of Immunization Awareness Month, Shot@Life, the United Nations Foundation and Walgreens are hosting Blogust: 31 days of top online writers sharing their stories and readers making their comments count.

Every time you comment on your favorite post, a vaccine will be donated to a child who desperately needs it. What a cool way to raise awareness about the importance of immunizations and help provide life-saving vaccines all at the same time. Check it out:

Blogust is a month-long digital dialogue bringing 31 of the most influential online writers together to help change the world through their words. The 31 Blogust bloggers will participate in a blog relay, with one blogger posting each day for the month of August 2013.  Every comment they receive to their posts throughout the month will trigger a donation by Walgreens to provide a vaccine for a child in need around the world.

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TIP Staff Spotlight Series: The Scream That Should Be Heard ‘Round the World’

Alana asked each of us here at The Immunization Partnership to write a little about how we got here and why we do what we do. This week we continue the series with Anna, President/CEO.
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Anna Dragsbaek, JD | President/CEO

Watching mothers in Africa hike ten miles or more through the bush with babies strapped to their backs is impressive under any circumstances. But when that mother is trekking to the closest health center because she wants to provide her child with life-saving vaccines, it is an awe inspiring maternal act of love. In fact, if you ever visit my office, you will see a batik painting of an African women with a baby strapped onto her back which reminds me every day of the power of mothers.

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As a Mom myself, I can really relate to that overt act of maternal love and devotion. True, I won the lottery at birth and have been lucky to live a life in which I have never had to even consider strapping a child to my back and walking miles through the bush in nothing more than flip flops just to get my babies immunized, but that doesn’t lessen my maternal instinct to protect my children (and your children and all the children of the world). A mother’s love is universal — that’s what Africa taught me, as did China, Singapore, Italy, and Denmark — all of which I have called home over the years.

Motherhood definitely brought out that universal ‘momma-bear’ instinct in me that resides inside of mothers everywhere, but my awareness and appreciation of immunizations came long before anyone called me ‘Mom’. It all started back in 1990 when I would learn a powerful lesson about the value of immunizations from a man I would never meet. Just recently I was honored to share that story in a Ted Talk that I would like to share with you today as part of our “TIP Staff Spotlight Series” on why we are inspired to do the work we do. This Ted Talk is dedicated to mothers across the world who strap a baby to their back, or into a car seat, or onto the back of a bicycle, or into a baby sling and seek out immunizations to protect their child, and by extension all our children from the devastation of vaccine-preventable diseases. Thanks for your support and for pledging to join with mothers across the globe to prevent what’s preventable.

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Click here to hear Anna speak at TEDxSanAntonio