The last thing that parents in the United States should be frightend about is their child catching a highly contagious, potentially deadly disease like measles. For decades, there hasn’t been much reason to worry. However, recent outbreaks have highlighted the importance of ongoing vigilance.
This past year, there have been 668 measles cases in America — the majority of which were linked to the outbreak at Disneyland. Many of those who contracted the disease had never been vaccinated. In early July, Washington state reported a measles death, which is the first death from the disease in the United States in 12 years.
The vaccination mandates and previously high vaccination had nearly wiped out measles as well as a host of other major infectious diseases from polio to smallpox. In recent years, parents who have decided to opt out of vaccinations have reduced this “herd” (or safety-in-numbers) immunity.
On June 30th of this year, a California law went into effect that mandates vaccinations for the major communicable illnesses for all children enrolling in daycare or school, regardless of personal or religious objection. The new legislation in California is legally sound and will provide a model for keeping children healthy throughout the country. With this legislation, California joined ranks with West Virginia and Mississippi. Both of these states only allow exemptions for their vaccination legislation for medical reasons.
Unfortunately, there are still 18 states that allow exemptions for a personal or philosophical reason. Infants and children who don’t have a say over their vaccination may not get vaccinated — putting both themselves and others at risk. Parents who choose not to have their children vaccinated believe that they are protecting them. In reality, they’re putting many others at risk, particularly those like newborns and infants who also haven’t received vaccinations.
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