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Readers React: Anti-vaccine parents put everyone at risk

To the editor: As a school nurse, I read this article on the high rates of vaccine exemptions for schoolchildren based on parents’ personal beliefs with dismay but not surprise. (“Plunge in kindergartners’ vaccination rate worries health officials,” Sept. 2)

Dawn Richardson of the National Vaccine Information Center, a group that advocates parent choice on vaccines, was quoted as saying, “No one group has the right to demand that another group take a risk to benefit them.” Yet that’s exactly what parents who refuse to immunize their children due to discredited theories are doing. They are putting pregnant women, vulnerable infants and immuno-compromised children at risk. And refusing the vaccine and letting their children get chickenpox puts adults at risk of contracting shingles.

These parents are not old enough to know what it was like to have children suffering through, and sometimes dying from, communicable childhood diseases. Parents who raised children prior to the 1950s would have given anything to have these vaccines available. Perhaps when their un-immunized children suffer greatly with measles or chickenpox in college, they may belatedly reconsider the wisdom of their choices.

There is a reason these are called childhood diseases: No adult wants to have them.

Jacqueline Ficht, South Pasadena

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To the editor: As kids we weren’t given many of the vaccinations offered today. A classmate died from measles. Everyone was afraid that swimming too long would lead to polio. We lined up for all the vaccines with relief and gratitude when they were developed and offered.

Parents who opt out of immunizing their kids should volunteer at a Third World hospital and try to convince the parents of kids afflicted with deadly communicable diseases that they are doing the “safe” thing for their children.

Valerie Loskota, San Gabriel

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To the editor: Personal belief exemptions for vaccinations may be an attempt to respect parents’ right to make choices about their children’s health, but ultimately, they only respect the choices of science-ignoring vaccine deniers.

What about my right to place my children in a classroom in which every child is vaccinated? I haven’t been given that choice.

Linda Williamson, Granada Hills

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To the editor: A parent who does not put a child in a car seat or fasten a seat belt endangers the child and would be subject to penalty for endangerment. Why should failing to vaccinate a child be treated differently?

James M. Smith, Los Angeles

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To the editor: The elimination of personal belief exemptions to vaccinations should be a top legislative target. Such exemptions pose a threat to public health and safety. Herd immunity takes time to establish, and its erosion in the general population is no trivial matter.

I’m old enough to recall epidemics that convinced my parents to whisk me out of town when there were outbreaks. Vaccines eliminated these outbreaks.

There is no verifiable justification for non-medical exemptions that are sought; the arguments for exemptions are contrary to solidly established evidence.

Equally troubling is that these exemptions are concentrated in wealthier areas, where the population is educated and should be capable of critical thinking.

Stanley A. White, San Clemente

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