The Times West Virginian

Opinion

October 7, 2012

Immunizations: Public health vs. personal freedom

In 1991, a Philadelphia-based religious group against childhood immunizations was traced back as the cause of a deadly measles outbreak, which killed eight people and infected at least 700 more.

Most recently, a little girl from Indiana visited an orphanage in Romania with her parents and didn’t just bring back a little brother or sister; she brought back a case of measles to her church group.

This time, 31 people were infected, the worst in a decade.

The measles is a disease targeted for eradication by the World Health Organization, as well as mumps and rubella. Huge strides have obviously been made with the introduction of the MMR vaccination, which protects from measles, mumps and rubella.

But one of the issues is that when parents choose not to vaccinate, people can contract these nearly eradicated diseases and spread them to others.

Vaccinations obviously work. Consider small pox. For many, many years, children carried the scar of one small pox blister on their arms. But by the late 1970s, the disease had been eradicated and the vaccination wasn’t needed anymore. My brother and I, born in 1975 and 1977 respectively, do not have the scar. However, our oldest siblings, born in 1970 and 1972, do. Just a few years can make a world of difference.

The issue is that parents who are Christian Scientists or belong to fundamental religious organizations do not believe in vaccinations.

And some parents who morally object to them or believe that vaccinations can cause their child to be at risk for developing autism don’t want their children to get the shots.

All but two states, including West Virginia and Mississippi, allow parents to choose to opt out of giving their children mandated vaccinations in order to attend public schools. The number of exemptions has dramatically increased, though many say it’s because parents morally object, not because of religious beliefs, but they use religion as an excuse on official forms.

The Associated Press studied states’ vaccination records and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information and found that many states are seeing increases in the rate of religious exemptions for kindergartners.

“Do I think that religious exemptions have become the default? Absolutely,” Dr. Paul Offit, head of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia told MSNBC, explaining that it is “an irrational, fear-based decision.”

It’s just a few thousand children out of 3.7 million enrolled in 2005, the latest year for these figures, but CDC and WHO officials say just these few thousand can be a huge risk for an outbreak in their area of nearly eradicated diseases.

“When you choose not to get a vaccine, you’re not just making a choice for yourself; you’re making a choice for the person sitting next to you,” Dr. Lance Rodewald, director of the CDC’s Immunization Services Division, told MSNBC.

The issue is now coming up in the Mountain State, as there are three lawsuits over students being kept out of classrooms for failing to get state-required immunizations. The lawsuits have been filed in Randolph, Ohio and Mercer counties. The Division of Health and Human Resources is intervening in the cases, since officials say West Virginia already has a low immunization rate for diseases like whooping cough, polio and measles, and those without the shots pose a great risk to the population.

So we asked our readers what they thought on our online poll question, which can be found each week at www.timeswv.com. Last week we asked, “What are your thoughts on the West Virginia court cases where parents want their child to attend public school without state-required immunizations because of religious and moral reasons?

And here’s what you had to say:

• As long as the majority of kids are up to date on immunizations, there isn’t much risk — 3.06 percent.

• It’s a slippery slope to deny education based on religious reasons — 4.08 percent.

• No one should be forced to go against their religious and convictions so their child can attend public school — 19.39 percent

• Failure to immunize is to bring back nearly eradicated diseases. This is a public health issue — 73.47 percent.

We’ll see how it plays out in the court system.

But this week, speaking of voting, we want to know how much of an impact you believe the televised presidential debates actually have on how people choose the next president of the United States?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV

 

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives

    It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
    We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?

    Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
    I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.

    July 20, 2014

  • Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions

    This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
    The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    July 18, 2014

  • Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year

    It’s happening again.
    It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
    But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.

    July 17, 2014

  • County honors men who gave all in helping their community

    The next time you’re driving in the Rivesville area, you might notice new signs on two of the area’s bridges.
    Those signs, which bear the names of Alex Angelino and Denzil O. Lockard, were unveiled Saturday in honor of the men whose names they display, two men who died while serving their communities.
    The bridge on U.S. 19 over Paw Paw Creek was named to honor Lockard, while the bridge on U.S. 19 over Pharaoh Run Creek was named to honor Angelino. Lockard, a former Rivesville police chief, died in 1958 at the age of 48 while directing traffic. Angelino, a Rivesville firefighter, died at the age of 43 of a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1966.

    July 16, 2014

  • State must learn to keep costs down and perform more efficiently on less

    The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
    Let’s not do that again.

    July 15, 2014

  • Long-range vision with transportation has been made to be thing of proud past

    Last week’s closure of Fairmont’s Fourth Street Bridge is a symbol of a problem that must be fixed.
    The United States should be proud of the vision its leaders once displayed to address the country’s transportation needs.
    Back in 1954, for example, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced his goal of an interstate highway system — something that transformed the country.

    July 13, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads