Dear Editor, It is dangerous to feel you have all information you will ever need. It is even more dangerous to think that all others MUST agree with you, or be persecuted. I am a Jewish person. My ancestors perished in the concentration camps. My grandfather escaped northern Poland in the late 1920 and traveled with his teenaged brother on an undocumented ship to the United States. The intolerance and hatred that sparked the persecution of the Jewish people throughout Europe less than a century ago, should not be forgotten. Intolerance, hatred and arrogance must be avoided by all people to work toward a world where cooperation, tolerance and genuine love for the miracle of life will guide us to a better life for all.
This editorial has been sparked by the current atmosphere in Lakewood, NJ surrounding the measles outbreak. The hatred, intolerance and proposed persecution of people who have chosen to delay or forego the medical intervention of vaccines has created a storm in the community. Some members of the modern medical community have broadcast information that has led to significant anger and fear among many people. These doctors have chosen to target people who have made decisions to not take their advice of pharmaceutical medical interventions. The bottom line is that there are people who have extended their learning beyond what pharmaceutical based medicine has to offer and have used this information to guide how they care for themselves and their families. The modern medical community resists the idea that there is anything other than their approach that is worthy of consideration. This attitude has created a dangerous erosion to the tolerance and cooperation that a successful community needs to thrive.
Regardless of how or why they have made these decisions, we need to work toward tolerance and understanding of the people who make different choices for themselves and their families than we may make for ourselves. Whether the choice is your Religious practice or your medical decisions, every person deserves respect and understanding. People who seek to persecute those who believe or chose differently than they do should not be celebrated. The following of people who seek to cultivate fear, anger and intolerance should be avoided.
A specific point that must be addressed is the idea that an unvaccinated person is a dangerous person. This statement, that has been alluded to by some members of the medical community and perpetrated by the people who have chosen to believe their words, is inaccurate. An unvaccinated person does not magically create disease within their bodies. Continuing to believe this will only move us further away from working to understand why someone may make a choice to not receive a vaccine. It is inappropriate for leaders in the community to continue to spread fear based, inaccurate information. Members of the community would be well served to identify this fear mongering for what it is and work to establish a more tolerant and cooperative way of life.
The decisions to vaccinate or not vaccinate are far more complicated for most families than simply being pro or anti vaccine. The continued emphasis to label people into these categories misses a tremendous opportunity to understand that there many shades of grey between these two extremes.
Extremists on both sides have not been effective at addressing what really needs to happen in order to keep people healthy. Extremists on the pro vaccine side of things could be well served to acknowledge that vaccines have and do cause damage and death to some people. This fact is acknowledged by the manufactures of the products and the United States Federal Government. Those who are most adamant that vaccines are 100% safe for all people are those who are profiting from the sale of the product. When people express concern or question the practices that these extremists support, they are often insulted, personally attacked and sometimes bullied into complying with the recommendation of the extremist provider. The extremists on the anti vaccine side of things must be careful to respect that there are people who do believe in the practice of vaccination and they are entitled to make those medical decisions for their families. The majority of the people fall in the grey areas and genuinely seek to make choices for their families based on the individual needs of each family member and their beliefs, with the council of providers they trust. In a free country people are entitled to choose their religion and are also entitled to making medical decisions for themselves and their families. Campaigns that seek to interfere with these freedoms by cultivating fear and hatred are misguided.
The Lakewood community should be encouraged to understand those who are different than them. These differences are varied and complicated, but can be respected. For the health and safety of all people, I pray we can all grow to respect each other without cultivating further divide. While the current situation seems to be creating divides within the Jewish community of Lakewood, I am hopeful that my words can be appreciated and applied to how all people deserve to be treated.
Dr. Sarah E. Lane
Spring Lake Heights, NJ
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