Around the World in 400 Words #4

By Anna Shaw

Chapel Hill Shooting:  On Wednesday, February 7th, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, her husband Dean Barakat, and her younger sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, were shot by 46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks, who turned himself in later that day.  According to The Washington Post, the deaths of these people sparked concerns that the killings were related to the victims’ religion.  The Chapel Hill Police Department said that it appeared the murders centered around a parking argument, while also promising to see if religion really was a factor.  Chris Blue, the Chapel Hill police chief, released a statement saying, “Our investigators are exploring what could have motivated Mr. Hicks to commit such a senseless and tragic act. We understand the concerns that this was hate-motivated and will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case.”  Barakat’s sister requested that the authorities investigate this incident as a hate crime after the attack, however, in a press conference with Hick’s wife, it was insisted that the attack was related to the parking argument and not to any bigotry.

Vaccination Exemptions: This year, there has been an alarming increase in exemptions from school vaccinations, especially in the state of California.  Although the anti-vaccination movement has been around since vaccinations were first administered, it has experienced an exponential increase of support after a fraudulent paper was posted in The Lancet by Andrew Wakefield in 1998, declaring that colitis and autism-spectrum disorders are directly related to the combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.  Even after the investigation made by the Sunday Times journalist, Brian Deer, showed that Wakefield had multiple undeclared conflicts of interest, had manipulated evidence, and had broken multiple other ethical codes, many people remained skeptical.

The last two years have proved that the decrease in vaccinated children is becoming dangerous, and in 2014 there were 13 outbreaks of measles—the most since 1996.  According to The Washington Post, some counties in California have had as many as 10% of students with personal belief exemptions, causing many students to fall ill to diseases that have been nearly eradicated in the past 15 years, especially the measles.  Although this trend has been mostly hitting southern California, it’s starting to spread westward, with more and more schools’ immunization coverage decreasing.

To check immunization coverage of certain schools, contact your state’s Department of Health.