Talk show host Limbaugh rushed to conclusions

By Michaella Sheridan

Late December marked the beginning of a continuing measles outbreak in the U.S., stemming from the Disneyland amusement park in Southern California. As of Feb. 13, 125 people from seven states had contracted measles and are considered to be part of a large, ongoing outbreak, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In response to this outbreak, and others that have occurred since 2008, mass mandatory vaccination has become a topic of debate in the upcoming presidential campaign.

Rush Limbaugh, a conservative radio host of celebrity status recently aired his opinion on the outbreak, blaming the re-introduction of the virus to the U.S. entirely on undocumented immigrants. Limbaugh said, “the kids that Obama has let flood the country via the Southern border were not vaccinated against anything, and Obama’s demanding that they be populated in schools and communities, neighborhoods all over the country because to Obama, these people are potential Democratic voters,” according to a transcription on his website.

The South American undocumented immigrants that Limbaugh refers to are most likely arriving from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, the sources of about three-quarters of all our undocumented immigrants, according to The Washington Post. And, these four countries had comparable, if not better, immunization standards than the U.S. as of 2013, according to the World Health Organization. Of course, since none of their immunization rates are 100 percent, there is still a chance of a link between South American undocumented immigrants and the recent outbreak, but to say they are definitively the source is completely unfounded.

By Flickr user Dan Correia

The CDC also found that 79 percent of all U.S. measles victims in 2014 were unvaccinated due to personal belief exceptions, including religious reasons, philosophical beliefs, or the medically unfounded fear that the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella might be linked to autism.

In 2014, a group of Amish missionaries returned to Ohio after a mission trip in the Philippines and sparked the U.S.’s largest measles outbreak since 1996, according to the CDC.

This instance among others, provides proof that outbreaks often occur, and derive from clusters of unvaccinated children. According to the Post,  “even if one could trace the source to an illegal immigrant, the main source of the problem is a failure to get vaccinated in the first place.”

Though there may be a lot of unvaccinated children crossing U.S. borders, there are also a lot of children within these borders who are allowed to remain unvaccinated due to their parents’ or caretakers’ personal beliefs. Limbaugh’s conservative rant illogically connects two issues in the desperate hope to criticize our Democratic leader, President Barack Obama.

Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, facts don’t lie. As long as there are parents or caretakers in the U.S. refusing to vaccinate their children against these highly contagious diseases, an outbreak is still likely to occur.

Even if we listened to Limbaugh and completely sealed our borders, the U.S. never could or would be able to force parents or caretakers to betray their religious or philosophical beliefs by forcing them to vaccinate their children. So, as long as the U.S. respects the fundamental human right to freedom of belief, these diseases can only be managed, but never eliminated.