PUBLISHER’S COLUMN: Lawmakers should follow true science, pass HB1683

Growing up in Anacortes during the 1970s, we would line up in the elementary school hallway to get our vaccinations.

A couple of nurses would give each student shots to fend off measles, mumps, rubella and diphtheria, and have us each dissolve a sugar cube in our mouths to prevent polio.

There was no fear of the vaccines, though some classmates got dramatic jitters when they saw the needles. They still received their shots, because we couldn’t attend school without them.

Our parents understood the necessity of getting us vaccinated. Most of them lived during the time when friends, family members or neighbors were being crippled by polio, sickened by measles, or perhaps they witnessed the horror of a child with pertussis literally cough themselves to death, the heart-breaking “whooping” sound seared into their memories.

According to the Center for Disease Control, before the vaccines, more than 15,000 Americans died from diphtheria in 1921, an epidemic of rubella (German measles) in 1964-65 infected 12.5 million Americans, killed 2,000 babies, and resulted in 11,000 miscarriages, and nearly everyone in this country contracted measles, leading to the deaths of hundreds each year.

The CDC reported most doctors had never seen a case of measles, only two cases of diphtheria were reported between 2004 and 2014, and, since 2012, just 15 cases of rubella were reported.

Now, because of a wave of misinformation, fueled by debunked studies and the internet, decades of progress are under threat.

In response to the recent measles outbreak in Clark County — 51 cases are confirmed to date — lawmakers must put the greater public interest ahead of unsubstantiated fears.

House Bill 1638 would eliminate the personal and religious exemptions currently allowed for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

I’ll admit that I’m angry that the health of my 10-month-old grandson is being put at risk by the antivaxxer narrative. He cannot receive his first dose of the measles vaccine until 12 months. Every day I worry about his health, and I’m counting down the days until he gets that shot.

Encourage your state lawmakers to follow the proven science and shore up the fight against preventable diseases.

Vaccinations are a societal obligation, and passing HB1638 is a no-brainer.

Keven Graves is the executive editor and publisher of the Whidbey News-Times. He can be reached at kgraves@whidbeynewsgroup.com

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