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Texas kids spread measles because their parents won't vaccinate them
August 26, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
In North Dakota, parents are not required to have their children vaccinated, but it's something they really ought to do.
I see on the wire yet another story about a measles outbreak, this time in Texas, that is linked to a megachurch where the pastor had expressed skepticism about vaccines. She apparently talked about a link between autism and vaccines that has long since been debunked by scientific research. Someone who had recently traveled overseas visited the church and infected some of the church members. Twenty people so far have been infected, according to Slate. Many of those infected are children of homeschooling families that had avoided vaccinating their children.
Measles was once a common childhood illness that most people recovered from, but not all. There was always the risk of complications, including more serious infections such as encephalitis (1 in 1,000 infected gets that) or even death. About 1 in 20 people who come down with the measles will be so sick they must be hospitalized, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Measles is one of the diseases I'm glad I have been immunized against. Unfortunately, I was too old to be immunized against chicken pox, also a once common childhood illness. I had a miserable case of the pox at age 9 that kept me out of school for a week, left me with scars all over my body and probably will result in a case of the shingles in another few decades. I hear about "crunchy mamas" who hold "pox parties" to deliberately infect their children with the disease and think they're nuts.
People like the parents at the megachurch in Texas are increasing the risk of other people being infected with measles because they haven't vaccinated their kids. There are people who cannot be vaccinated because they have some ailment that would make it dangerous. There are also always people in whom the vaccine wasn't entirely effective. Herd immunity – caused by a large percentage of the population being immunized – protects those people from illness and its potential complications. By refusing to vaccinate, the parents in Texas have weakened that herd immunity.
So do the small, but growing, number of North Dakota parents who also refuse to vaccinate for various reasons. In this state, parents are allowed to refuse vaccinations for religious or philosophical reasons and public schools must still admit their children. I don't think that should change. I just wish they would reconsider.
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