At the end of August, epidemiologists in Texas traced a measles outbreak to people who attended a particular megachurch, the pastor of which has preached against vaccinations. The pastor has apparently repented that stupid move.
Fortunately, that outbreak was able to be pretty well-contained — after the disease sickened about 21 people, Texas issued a public health alert and quickly found the source of the issue. The megachurch’s pastor was very cooperative and even agreed to host several free clinics to encourage the congregation to get their shots.
That’s good, but a fundamentalist area of the Netherlands isn’t doing so well.
The Netherlands has been struggling with a measles outbreak since May. So far, more than 1,200 people have been sickened, and 82 of them have ended up in the hospital. It’s the first time in the past 13 years that the country has experienced a rash of measles cases. And as the Irish Times reports, the “outbreak is concentrated in the country’s extensive Bible Belt, where the majority of fundamentalist Protestants do not believe in having their children vaccinated.”
So I look at the Irish Times article, from last June.
For the first time in 13 years, the Netherlands has been hit by a serious outbreak of potentially deadly measles. The outbreak is concentrated in the country’s extensive Bible Belt, where the majority of fundamentalist Protestants do not believe in having their children vaccinated.
More than 30 cases have so far been reported, but the public health institute, RIVM, says that “in view of the low vaccination uptake in the Bible Belt, it is assumed that the illness will spread further among unvaccinated children in the near future”.
In fact, the figure of 30 could already be a significant underestimate, acknowledges the RIVM. Given the reluctance of most of the ultra-conservative population to put their faith in medicine, not everyone who has become ill will have visited the family doctor.
So the Netherlands has its own Texas, only more so. Fewer people but more wrong. I did not know that.
The country’s epidemiologists are having difficulty tracking the outbreak because orthodox Protestants don’t usually seek treatment at the doctor after they become sick. The close-knit religious community believes in faith healing, and opposes medical interventions like vaccines because they undermine “divine providence.” And because they live among other orthodox Protestants, rather than being integrated among the rest of the country’s residents, they don’t benefit from the “herd effect” that helps prevent the spread of diseases — that is, the fact that vaccinating some people can end up protecting the unvaccinated ones around them.
So they believe in a stupid incompetent god that wants them to do stupid incompetent things like not getting vaccinated and not using medical treatment. How miserably pathetic.
And how horrible for the children of that “close-knit religious community.”