Anti-vaccinators in our community have convinced too many to avoid vaccination, decreasing the herd immunity and causing a serious outbreak of pertussis endangering those at risk among us – some with cystic fibrosis.

They convinced the parents of 5 percent of children at school to seek “religious” waivers to avoid vaccination. With grim mechanical certainty, Bordetella pertussis poisons and does not respond to bargaining. A waiver will not protect a child. 

Like a classic recital of other plagues, the hall is rented, the actors take the stage. Act 1: quarantine and treat of the sick, identify and monitor the exposed, vaccinate the unexposed. Nervous looks at coughs in public, hushed tones in hospital hallways, clipboards, needles and heroes in white hunched over microscopes. I never thought to see the day we had fallen this far. What is next, diphtheria, typhus, cholera?  

Let us focus the brightest spotlight upon the chief villain in this tragedy. Not that small gram-negative coccobacillus, they are automatons without malice. The true villains are the anti-vaccinators who laid the groundwork for this narrative. They spread lies about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and gave license to the greedy, the ignorant and the lazy. To me, there is little difference between that and yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.  

Examine the bitter fruit they’ve sown: From 1985 to 1988, there were fewer than 100 deaths from pertussis, worldwide. Like smallpox before it, it was almost eliminated. Then came the Reagan health cuts and the slander against vaccination, and now the World Health Organization reports more than 40 million cases worldwide and 360,000 deaths annually, mostly children.  

Imagine it were a willful violence, as if some villain broke into homes to attempt murder. Forty million is equal to every man, woman and child in the states of California and Oregon combined. Imagine a monster choking the life out of every town and dwelling for 700 miles of the coast, from all of Astoria to the outskirts of San Francisco. That’s the same number that pertussis will asphyxiate this year alone. The suffering and death of all those people assaulted and killed by pertussis is on the hands of every anti-vaccinator who spreads their lies like pertussis poisons the body.

How dare anyone say that pertussis is a mild nuisance? How dare those who claim to be medical professionals imply people ought to avoid vaccination? Shame on all those who, out of politeness, tolerate such murderous villainy.

Sickness and death walk our streets. Now is not the time for politeness. The outcome of all this will depend upon what we do now.