America: Ground Zero for a Real ‘Contagion’ - Health
We haven’t even turned the page on the controversy over contraceptives, health care and religious freedom when another thorny one arises involving personal conscience and public health. A flurry of stories over the past few days coincided with seeing a movie that inspires more than passing interest in their subject.
Steven Soderbergh’s film “Contagion” came out a few months ago and was inexplicably and completely frozen out of the Oscar nominations. But it is the most plausible experience of a global pandemic plague you’re likely to see until the real thing strikes. With outstanding performances from an ensemble cast that includes Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Laurence Fishburne,”Contagion” is stark, beautiful in its own terrifying way, and all-too-believable. The story tracks the swift progress of a deadly airborne virus from Hong Kong to Minneapolis and Tokyo to London — from a handful of peanuts to a credit card to the cough of a stranger on a subway. Rarely does a film issue such an inescapable invitation to think: it could happen; that could be us. What would we do?
With “Contagion” making such a powerful impression, for several days news articles seemed to keep popping up about contagious disease and the conflict between religious beliefs and immunization. There was nothing new about the basics: All 50 states require some specific vaccinations for kids, yet all of them grant exemptions for medical reasons - say, for a child with cancer. Almost all of them grant religious exemptions. And twenty states allow exemptions for personal, moral, or other beliefs.
According to the February 15 edition of The Wall Street Journal, a number of pediatricians are dropping families from their practices when the parents refuse immunization for their kids. “In a study of Connecticut pediatricians published last year,” the paper reported, “some 30 percent of 133 doctors said they had asked a family to leave their practice for vaccine refusal, and a recent survey of 909 Midwestern pediatricians found that 21 percent reported discharging families for the same reason.”