It is akin to letting children begin the school year with nothing to wear other than tattered shorts and sandals. Or sending them off without pencils and paper at their disposal. Yet while parents would never consider leaving their kids ill-prepared for school, far too many ignore the need for appropriate vaccinations.
So, as the academic year draws near — it will arrive before you know it — we renew calls for students to receive up-to-date vaccinations. State health officials are hoping that 95 percent of this year’s kindergarten class will have all the recommended immunizations, a benchmark that would protect not only those children but the ones around them.
“In order to prevent transmission of those diseases, to prevent an outbreak, you need a large enough portion of the students and staff to be immune to it,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, director of Clark County Public Health and county health officer. Achieving that level in Clark County might be difficult, considering that 78 percent of last year’s kindergartners had been fully immunized.
That points out a growing societal concern, as mistrust of vaccines has been a national political issue. So allow us to reiterate two points we have editorially made in the past: There are mountains of evidence that prove vaccinations are safe and effective; and fear of vaccines stems from fraudulent research.
In 1998, British doctor Andrew Wakefield published fabricated research linking the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) to autism. Wakefield was hoping to receive a patent on his own vaccine, and therefore had reason to discredit the MMR vaccine, and he was being paid by lawyers who hoped to make a case for their autistic clients. Wakefield’s research was eventually discredited and he was stripped of his medical license, but the wounds he inflicted upon the public trust have yet to heal.
For those who cling to the internet-fueled fallacy that vaccines are dangerous, we encourage you to read about the numerous studies that show vaccines to be safe. Weigh the evidence against Wakefield’s unsubstantiated findings, and then make sure your children are fully immunized.
At issue is the notion of herd immunity, about which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention writes, “Even individuals not vaccinated (such as newborns and those with chronic illnesses) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community.” The threshold for herd immunity varies from disease to disease, but it is essential to public health.
For one example, the persistent anti-vax movement has contributed to a growth of measles cases throughout the country. Once considered eradicated in the United States, measles have been resurgent; the CDC has reported 117 cases this year through July 15. Notably, researchers find that in a majority of cases, those contracting the disease have not been vaccinated. “These are really, really serious illnesses, and all of us need to be immunized to protect those around us,” Melnick said.
That gets to the heart of the issue. While some might view vaccinations as a matter of personal choice, if a large segment of the population eschews those vaccinations, it endangers those who are unable to be immunized because of other medical conditions. It even endangers some who have, indeed, received vaccinations.
Up-to-date vaccinations should be viewed as a necessary part of back-to-school preparations. After all, you wouldn’t send your children to class with nothing to wear.