Vaccinations are to protect everyone

Ricki Lewis, Glenville


The June 2 article: “Bill would ease path to exemption … Religious objection to student vaccines would become easier to claim” is so light on the science that it buries the very reason to vaccinate.

The article describes the plight of parents who, for religious reasons, don’t want their children vaccinated. The lone single-sentence quote about the science is vague and doesn’t even mention the concept of herd immunity – the main point. That is, a certain percentage of a population must be vaccinated to prevent the spread of an infectious disease. For this concept, a picture is worth a thousand words, so google it.

An unvaccinated child could transmit a disease if she or he is in the incubation stage or has mild symptoms and goes to school. A classmate who is being treated for or recovering from cancer or a transplant, or perhaps has an inherited immune deficiency, could contract such an unchecked infection and die.

The vaccine for chickenpox was developed decades ago. For years before it became publicly available, it was given to protect kids who had leukemia. To get a sense of the angst, anger and terror that refusing to vaccinate a child can cause, read a pediatrician’s account in Mother Jones, “To the Parent of the Unvaccinated Child Who Exposed My Family to Measles.” His child has cancer.

Sen. James Seward stated in the article, “We should respect the religious beliefs of others, as well as parental rights.” And we should care that parents he’d heard from “have been treated unfairly by administrators.” Really? I think we should respect the rights of children to attend school without risking contracting a preventable infection. “Do unto others” shouldn’t include passing along pertussis or measles or chickenpox.

If a parent, religious or not, and a school system allow an unvaccinated child to attend school and an infection passed in a sneeze, wipe, or held hand kills another, that’s murder. It’s not “respecting religious beliefs.”

Ricki Lewis


The writer is a PhD geneticist and writes textbooks health care professionals use.

Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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