State representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) announced that he would soon introduce a bill in Legislature that would discontinue “conscientious exemptions,” a current Texas policy that allows parents whose children attend public school to opt out of standard vaccinations because of their religious preferences. But what about when parents choose not to vaccinate their children for scientific or bioethical reasons?

The recent emphasis on vaccinations accompanies a push for mandatory immunizations; both follow an alarming increase in measles cases. In the past week alone, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported an 18.9 percent increase in the number of measles cases in the United States. The CDC attributes 85 percent of the measles cases in January and February — more than 100 people across 17 states — to an outbreak that began in Southern California last December.

Though not universally fatal, measles is a highly contagious disease. Some parents, however, have chosen not to vaccinate their children because of a suspected correlation between immunizations and autism. Although this theory has not been verified as scientific fact, it merits thorough investigation.

Skepticism is healthy. Hasty solutions to exaggerated problems often inspire problems of their own.

Science and medicine are not static. Eight generations ago, many of our grandparents considered bloodletting to be a state-of-the-art medicine procedure. The character and face of medicine change constantly — usually through responsible trial-and-error (i.e. prescription dosages, surgical procedures) and by accident (i.e. virology, genetics).

Capital, profit and human interests drive modern medical, pharmaceutical and scientific development; yet, when presented as scientific, a theories bear a tacit social connotation tantamount to venerable, an infallible truths by scientific association.

We should approach current scientific theory and medical knowledge with a healthy degree of skepticism.

Medicine and its agents are not always right. Neither are parents.

Medical professionals and parents must keep abreast of developments in the scientific field, apart from the rhetoric of pharmaceuticals. Only through objective consideration of both the risks and benefits inextricable from science can parents make the educated decisions that affect their children and the community.

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