It’s Irresponsible Not To Vaccinate

MW-Moon-021115-measlesWhy has measles suddenly become a thing? Why are people debating the efficacy and safety of the measles vaccine — something proven long ago to be both effective and safe? Why are people’s fears and opinions allowed to trump science?

And most important, why do we let the actions of an ill-informed minority override the public good?

This may be a national news story right now, but believe me, we in Hawaii have reason to pay attention. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 634 children enrolled in kindergarten with religious exemptions in the 2013-2014 school year. That’s 3.2 percent of the kindergarten population.

What I find particularly alarming is that the number of religious exemptions rose from the previous school year, from 2.5 percent to 3.2 percent.

Why are we allowing this to happen? And what are we going to do about it?

Are we going to watch as the number of unvaccinated children grows, tearing holes in our “herd immunity” safety cushion? We are an island-bound community; it’s important for us all to look out for each other. Unvaccinated people put the most vulnerable at risk, including the medically fragile, infants and seniors.

The fears and misconceptions perpetrated by the anti-vaccination movement can and should be addressed before they go any further.

One of the most alarming claims is that vaccines cause autism. Not true.

The source of this mistaken belief came from a 1998 study that was published in the British medical journal The Lancet. But the research by Andrew Wakefield was thoroughly discredited, The Lancet retracted the study in 2010 and Wakefield lost his medical license.

By then the damage had been done, and vaccine hysteria took hold and grew.

Another misconception is that vaccines don’t work. Again, not true. Take a look at the CDC graph on the number of measles cases in the U.S. between 1950 and 2001. The real and dramatic drop in measles cases came when the vaccine was licensed and put into wide use in 1963. In fact, measles was officially declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. So it’s a crying shame that it is making a comeback.

If you’re indecisive on the matter, please take time to educate yourself, for your children’s sake.

Talk to your pediatrician and believe what he or she tells you. They are the experts, not fear-mongering celebrities, pandering politicians or anti-vaccination websites.

The problem could be solved if our politicians had the will to do it. Ban all non-medical exemptions. Yes, it’s possible.

Two states have done it, Mississippi and West Virginia, two conservative states. Why can’t we here in Hawaii?

For that matter, why can’t we do it for the entire United States?