Irresponsibility catches up with us in measles outbreak

Sunday, February 3, 2019

What other papers say

How many disease outbreaks will it take before we figure this out: If you don’t vaccinate your kids, you are putting them, and other people, in danger.

A measles outbreak in the Northwest, located around the southwest portion of Washington state, has sickened 38 people, most of them kids under 10, the Associated Press reports. Of those 38 people, 34 were not immunized against the measles, the AP adds.

In light of the situation, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency.

Emergency? Isn’t the measles just a mild childhood illness?

Not according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Here’s a few unnerving facts from the institution’s website:

• Before a measles vaccine was developed, each year the disease killed 400 to 500 people and hospitalized 48,000.

• Today, about one in four people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized. One or two out of 1,000 people with measles will die.

• Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also get infected.

• Adults can get the measles as well. For example, pregnant women are at high risk of complications from the disease.

The Seattle Times called the area of the Washington outbreak an anti-vaccination “hot spot.”

“Anti-vaxxers,” as they are sometimes called, decline to vaccinate their children for a variety of reasons, ranging from personal to religious. But a large number of them don’t vaccinate out of a mistaken belief vaccinations can cause serious side effects like autism. The autism myth has been completely debunked by a host of scientific studies showing childhood vaccinations are unquestionably safe.

But the myth, which almost has a superstitious medieval quality, persists. And in some communities like the one in southwest Washington, as large pools of unvaccinated children grow, it endangers not only those kids but those around them who are either are still too young to be vaccinated or who have weakened immune systems.

Usually, unvaccinated children are protected by what’s called “herd immunity” — created by all the responsible parents who DID vaccinate their kids. But that gets broken down by irresponsible parents who DON’T vaccinate their children, or who think they know better than doctors and change the spacing of when those vaccinations should be given.

So now the ridiculous notion that childhood vaccinations are harmful has moved from a health nuisance to a health emergency.

In fact, the World Health Organization now lists “vaccine hesitancy” among the top 10 global health threats.

It should be noted parents who don’t get their children vaccinated are not monsters. They are sincerely trying to do the right thing for their kids. But they are sincerely wrong, sucked in by the anti-vaccination fear campaign, and they are putting everyone else in danger.

One reason these misguided parents believe vaccinations are unnecessary is the stunning success of vaccination programs that over the years have eradicated terrifying diseases like smallpox and polio. Parents today no longer see the ravages of these diseases and assume vaccinations are unnecessary. But they would quickly change their minds if they could see a child — THEIR child — paralyzed and struggling to breathe in an iron lung machine, like many children and adults were at the height of the polio epidemic in the early 1950s.

For now, there are no measles cases in Montana. But let’s not take chances. Don’t hurt your family and your community. Make sure your kids get vaccinated with the full range of recommended immunizations, and at the recommended intervals.

— Dwight Harriman

The Livingston Enterprise

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