Sitting in the pamphlet stand of the indoor play place sat a brochure from the municipal health department with a cover that said simply, “Vaccinate your kids!” A straight and to-the-point message, but an important one.
It seems at least one school agrees. Following outbreaks of measles in New York and chicken pox in North Carolina, Ohio’s Hebrew Academy of Cleveland has removed religion as an accepted exemption from vaccines.
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While I am normally the first to advocate for making religious accommodations, I applaud the stance this school is taking, and I hope others follow suit.
Unlike other religious exemptions, this one affects the health and well-being of others who rely on the herd immunity of a well-vaccinated community.
The science is clear. “There’s really no good credible science for someone not to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Baruch Fertel of the Cleveland clinic. “We see from these outbreaks that it can just spread like wildfire and cause harm.”
The controversy surrounding vaccines is fear-mongering and based in inaccuracy.
As more people believe the pseudoscience over the scientific evidence, herd immunity drops, and illness spreads. The World Health Organization documented a 30 per cent increase in measles cases between 2016-2017 – a disease that had been nearly eradicated within our lifetime. More than just common childhood bugs, these diseases can be, and are, deadly.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 29, 2018
There is too much at stake for this school to consider making accommodations, stating in the letter to parents, “We recognize that there are families that have strong views on both sides of this issue. However, this is not an area where we can accommodate any deviation from this new protocol.”
We are seeing a shift in the attitudes towards vaccinations being a personal choice.
Personal choices cease to become personal when they put others are risk, just as people are not allowed to make the personal choice to drive drunk. “Choosing not to vaccinate, yes it’s a personal decision, but on the other hand, it can affect other people if one becomes effected,” explained Dr. Fertel.
Why do you need to worry about my unvaccinated child if yours is vaccinated? is another common response to required vaccinations.
The answer is surprisingly simple: Because vaccines are highly effective, but not fool proof; and because not everyone can be vaccinated. If everyone who can be vaccinated gets vaccinated, when the disease does pop up, it hits walls of immunity and doesn’t spread. Eventually, it stops appearing altogether. This protects the people who cannot be immunized due to allergy or illness, and the very small percentage of people for whom vaccines aren’t fully effective.
Adverse reaction is another common concern.
Yes, there can be reactions to vaccines as there can be anything, including other medications, foods, and environmental irritants. But serious reactions are extremely rare – far less common than serious complications of the diseases they prevent.
Many pediatricians are drawing a line in the sand, refusing to see patients who will not vaccinate themselves or their children, as a way to protect their other vulnerable patients.
Time will tell if other schools will take this cue to require vaccinations for all students who do not have a medical reason to refuse them.
I hope they do. When science and reason are not enough to prevent epidemics and the return of previously-dormant illnesses, more drastic measures must be taken to protect our children.
And schools taking the lead in this area, is a start.