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The Daily Planet's Opinion: December 2018
Thursday, 06 December 2018 16:28

Parents of infected students: Rethink immunization stance

As of late November, The Asheville Waldorf School, a private school in West Asheville with one of the highest rates of religious exemption from vaccinations in North Carolina, claimed 36 enrolled students had contracted chickenpox.

Given that Waldorf — with enrollees ranging from nursery age to sixth-grade — also has North Carolina’s third-highest rate of vaccination exemptions, it comes as no surprise that 19 of the 28 currently enrolled kindergartners had exemptions to at least one state-required vaccination. It is easy see why chickenpox spread so quickly among Waldorf’s students.

What’s more, Buncombe County, as a whole, leads the state in religious exemption rates for kindergarteners, at 5.7 perceent.

Sad to say, the Asheville area is being branded a “hot spot” for ultra-low vaccination rates, a distinction making international news, literally adding insult to injury, and resulting in embarrassment for our community.

Chickenpox normally just produces an itchy rash and usually is not life-threatening. Annually, the vaccine prevents more than 3.4 million cases of chickenpox, 9,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

While North Carolina law allows for religious exemptions to immunizations required for all schoolchildren, it appears to us that some people are using the religious exemption to mask their real problems with immunizations, which often are based on conspiracy science published with much ballyhoo on the internet and, usually, later quietly retracted.

In other cases, where religion is sincerely cited for the exemption, we wonder if that is sufficient reason to endanger public health.

Regardless of whether it is based on religion or something else, non-immunization presents a clear and present danger to the public.

When parents withhold immunizations, the large number of non-immunized children creates a reservoir where the virus can take refuge and multiply. 

When a virus gains traction through non-immunized people, it can spread to everyone with whom those carrying the virus interact, such as pregnant women, people with AIDS and those finishing chemotherapy.

We urge area parents who have exempted their children from vaccines to reconsider, based on the undeniable medical research showing they are safe, that they save thousands of lives every year —  and out of concern for not only their offspring, but for others in our community who may be vulnerable to the ravages of viruses that could be easily prevented simply with a vaccine.




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