Readers React

The grim reality of growing up unvaccinated

To the editor: I was born in 1946. There were smallpox and polio vaccines in the 1950s, but I can't remember any others. I lived in the English countryside, with fresh air and loving parents. ("As Disneyland measles outbreak spreads, O.C. bars students lacking proof of shots," Jan. 20)

In the 1950s and early '60s, I had whooping cough, chickenpox, scarlet fever, mumps, German measles and regular measles. The little girl next door died of measles. I can remember whooping cough, struggling to breathe, waiting for the ambulance.

Scarlet fever, chickenpox and measles — all miserable. Mumps — huge swollen glands, feeling so sick; the fear of sterility for males. German measles — the added concern of possibly infecting another woman who doesn't yet know she's pregnant, with a subsequent baby with birth defects.

Now we can eradicate or greatly reduce these diseases, yet some people refuse to protect their children. Please, please vaccinate your precious sons and daughters. Don't let them experience what I did.

Sandra Garbiso, Santa Maria

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To the editor: It's a shame there isn't a time machine that would allow the parents of children who succumbed to diseases such as measles and polio to come back and spend an hour or two with today's misguided mothers and fathers who refuse to inoculate their sons and daughters.

At the very least, today's parents and doctors who have voluntarily decided to put their children and other members of society at risk should spend a day in a children's cancer ward, talking to the mothers and fathers who, through no fault of their own, are about to lose a child.

No matter how hard people try to hide behind the self-righteous banner of "wanting to do what is right for my family" — ignoring reality and hard science in the process — we live in a world of cause and effect, and the effect of their negligence is the outbreak of a disease that had been eradicated because people put their children's welfare first and had them inoculated.

Susanne Stevenson, Del Mar

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To the editor: Freedom means choice. Plain and simple. Without choice, we are not a democracy.

It is my choice whether or not I want to be vaccinated. It is your choice whether or not to wash your hands or take basic public health precautions. It is an individual's choice whether he or she wants to gamble with their child's life. It is not your place to say what they have to do.

If I don't want to wear a seat belt, that's my problem. If I want to smoke like a chimney and drink myself to sleep every night, then it is my choice to destroy my body, whether you approve or not.

Clayton Graver, Minden, Nev.

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To the editor: It's good that Orange County health officials are barring unvaccinated students from schools during this current measles outbreak.

Since experts say that about a 6% non-vaccination rate for measles is acceptable for maintaining herd immunity, we should cap the allowable number of personal belief exemptions at any given school at that figure.

If parents want to enroll an unvaccinated child at a school that has reached its limit, they would have to find another school with available capacity. An inconvenience for them? Yes, but a reasonable compromise between accommodating their personal beliefs and ensuring the protection of all students who deserve a safe and healthy learning environment.

Richard Kraft, West Hollywood

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