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OPINION: Anti-vaxxers continue to put us at serious risk

Moscow-Pullman Daily News - 1/31/2019

Jan. 31--Your child won't get autism from being vaccinated for numerous, now-preventable diseases.

But she could certainly needlessly die if you don't vaccinate her.

And that child can also spread disease to his friends and anyone else he comes into contact with.

That's exactly what is happening in western Washington, where since the beginning of the year the state has detected at least three dozen confirmed cases and 12 suspected cases of measles -- a virus declared eliminated within the U.S. in 2000, before anti-vaxxers wiped out that progress.

Most of the cases are occurring in Clark County, about 9 miles from Portland. The county -- where nearly a quarter of the children enrolled in public schools are not fully vaccinated -- has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state.

The issues there are just part of growing trend in which people would rather believe nonsense they read on social media and debunked studies than facts from experts. Vaccination rates are dipping so much the World Health Organization added "vaccine hesitancy," or "the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines," to its list of top 10 threats to global health in 2019.

Measles is so contagious 90 percent of unvaccinated people who come in contact with an infected person will get the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State officials know that many of those infected traveled to well-populated areas like Costco, Ikea, the Portland International Airport and the basketball arena where the Portland Trail Blazers play. The outbreak is only going to worsen in the coming days.

Before the vaccine was introduced in 1963, measles was the leading killer of children in the world, and in 2017, it still claimed about 110,000, mostly those younger than 5, according to the WHO. Children cannot be vaccinated until they are 1, meaning they rely on protection from others -- it's called herd immunity, but it's non-existent when nearly a quarter of the population is unvaccinated.

Despite the terrifying statistics, many parents elect to not vaccinate their children. And their actions lead to death.

Unfortunately, only three states -- California, West Virginia and Mississippi -- do not allow parents with a religious or philosophical objection to opt out of having their children vaccinated.

There's hope the requirements in Washington will soon be strengthened, as a bill was introduced in the House last week that would eliminate the "philosophical or personal objections" category parents can use to opt out of getting their children the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

We hope the bill quickly advances to the governor's desk and that Idaho takes up a similar measure, because our children should not die because of pseudoscience.


(c)2019 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)

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