Opinion

Get your kids vaccinated now | Editorial

It should be harder for parents to let their kids skip vaccinations, and thanks to Legislative action, it will be so effective July 22.

Washington state residents as a whole and Island County in particular have been an embarrassment when it comes to the percentage of children who have not been vaccinated. It should be no higher than 10 percent. Oak Harbor School District is at the top edge at around 10 percent, while South Whidbey hovers around 19 percent and Central Whidbey 20 percent, according to the Department of Health,

In essence, on South and Central Whidbey, one public school child in five is not vaccinated against dangerous childhood diseases including whooping cough (pertussis), measles and hepatitis. They’re a danger to themselves and others.

The new law, endorsed by Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, among others, requires parents desiring an exemption from state law to submit proof that a health care provider has informed them of the risks and benefits of immunization. Immunizations are required to attend school unless parents sign such a statement.

At present, parents simply check a form. Out of 1,110 Whidbey Island students exempt from immunizations this year, 1,045 simply checked “personal reason.” A few others listed medical reasons and a handful religious reasons.

The new law still allows for religious or philosophical exemptions from vaccinations, but at least assures that decisions are made in an informed manner. If a health care worker tells parents of the scourge of past measles and pertussis epidemics, for example, they may be more inclined to protect their own children. Many older people today are still haunted by deaths of loved ones caused by diseases that today have almost disappeared, thanks to the scientific miracle of immunizations. All the legislation does is make sure parents have the information they need to make an informed decision.

Whidbey Island had a few pertussis cases last year, and in 2008 there was a widespread scare that kept some local baseball teams from traveling off-island. Lack of immunizations and comparably high disease rates is nothing to boast about.

There are risks involved in immunizations but those risks are minuscule compared to letting a disease get out of control in the community. All parents should have their kids vaccinated before they return to school next fall.

 

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