After 50 years in ministry, Kenneth Copeland is now preaching for emergency vaccinations.His church worried over a sudden measles outbreak, the elder statesman of American televangelists has delivered a bold message that left no doubt.With Tarrant County residents from age 4 months to 44 suffering, Copeland wrote to Eagle Mountain International Church worshippers telling them the Lord wants them to pray and be thankful for vaccinations the way they would for food.Copeland, 76, wrote that God is telling worshippers to “take advantage of what I have provided for you in Jesus’ Name.”For an evangelist who preached as recently as four years ago that parents should be skeptical and “don’t take the word of the guy who’s giving the shot,” it was a noble turn away from doubt and fear.Copeland even quoted 1 Timothy 4, framing vaccinations as a “creature of God … sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”Dozens of worshippers lined up for immunizations Sunday.Most of the county measles cases involve infants, children and adults who were never vaccinated, county health officials said Tuesday.It’s the latest of several outbreaks nationwide based around religious communities where some parents may have objected to vaccines.State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, a lawyer who has worked for the conservative Liberty Counsel, said parents hear stars like Jenny McCarthy opposing vaccines and “want to make sure they don’t make a mistake that hurts their child.”“They see a health risk, or a religious reason, or they just don’t like the government telling them how to parent,” Krause said.(The state Republican Party platform opposes mandatory vaccinations.)“The people who don’t vaccinate — they’re accepting the risk,” he said.More than 25,000 schoolchildren in Texas have religious or personal exemptions to attend school without vaccinations, according to state figures quoted by Anna Dragsbaek of the Houston-based Immunization Partnership advocacy group.Texas ranks 47th in child measles vaccinations, according to the Atlanta-based federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.We’re ahead of Idaho, Iowa and West Virginia. “The vaccine is definitely the best and greatest ally to combat an outbreak,” Dragsbaek said.“People think if they don’t get the vaccine, that’s their risk. But it’s also dangerous for that newborn in line behind you at Kroger who hasn’t been vaccinated yet. It’s like drunk driving laws — we have vaccination laws to protect everybody else.”It takes more than prayer.
Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy