Yes, I'm Cranky
The Times runs one just like it every year about this time as the summer winds down and people start preparing their kids to return to school. The subject matter isn't what galls me, nor is the way the editorial board treats the subject. In fact, I consider this kind of editorial a necessary public service, and I appreciate that it's being performed. What grates on me is that it has to be performed year after year.
It's about childhood vaccinations, the ones that keep diseases like chicken pox and polio and measles and whooping cough under control, if not completely eradicated in our population. California requires proof of those vaccinations before allowing a child to be enrolled in school. This year the state requires that students in 7th grade through high school to bring proof of whooping cough boosters, a requirement necessitated by the resurgence of that illness in the state last year.
We know childhood vaccinations work, yet some parents still resist. Sometimes parents refuse the vaccinations for their children on religious grounds, and the state does allow that as an exception. Sometimes the refusal is based on the fact that the child has a physical condition (e.g., an impaired immune system) which precludes the vaccinations. The state also allows an exemption for this as well.
Too often, however, the excuses proffered are not so sensible. Many still believe that the vaccinations cause autism in children, even though the study which made that assertion has now been thoroughly debunked. Yet others object to those vaccinations being mandated by the government as a despotic intrusion into their lives, even though the whole point of the mandate is to provide for the general welfare of the population, a goal inherent in government.
Here's a portion of that editorial that bears repeating. Again.
As The Times has reported, there were nearly 9,500 cases of whooping cough last year in California alone, the most in 65 years. Cases of other diseases — measles and Hib — are rising, though in far smaller numbers. Many measles cases are "imported" from countries where the disease is more prevalent, often by unvaccinated U.S. residents who return from foreign travel.
It would be one thing if these diseases affected only the children whose parents object to vaccines. But if those children get sick, they put many others at risk, including those who cannot be immunized for medical reasons, who don't respond to vaccines or who aren't old enough to be inoculated. (Of the 10 infants who died of whooping cough in California last year, nine were too young to have been vaccinated.) All of these children are endangered by the unfounded fears of a small minority of parents. Public health depends on "herd immunity" — the inoculation of enough people to keep a disease from the larger community.
Maybe there will come a day when running this editorial annually won't be necessary. Unfortunately, I doubt that day will come during my life time.
Labels: Child Welfare