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Letter: Get vaccinated and listen to the science

I wish to comment on the well-intentioned, though sorely misinformed opinion of Heather Bergquist in her letter to the editor. Yes, it is up to parents to decide what’s best for kids. And yes, vaccinations over the past 170 years have been proven effective based upon “randomized trials and mandated interventions” that have been effective in eradicating the diseases that, heretofore, have resulted in the deaths and disabilities of millions.

I, therefore, take great umbrage with the notion that parents have the absolute right to deny proven public health mandates, and parenthetically, hope that soon these mandates will apply to children under the age of 12.

To whit, a bit of history. The first required school vaccinations for smallpox began in the 1850s, whose purpose was to eradicate the scourge of smallpox from the United States population or to create herd immunity. Vaccinations for diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus; hepatitis B; measles, mumps and rubella; chickenpox; and polio are required for public school attendance, unless valid medical exceptions exist.



The American Academy of Pediatrics, a most highly respected national institution, advises physicians to respect the refusal of parents to vaccinate their child after adequate discussion, unless the child is put at significant risk or harm (such as during an epidemic/pandemic or after a deep, contaminated puncture wound). Under such circumstances, the AAP states that parental refusal of immunization constitutes a form of medical neglect and should be reported to state child protective services.

Thus, the knowledge of science in the public health sphere mandates that we adhere to the same situation as we did in the ’50s when the polio vaccine became available and required. Who would deny their child the ability to prevent him/her from contracting polio? I am old enough to remember, when as surgical resident in the polio ward at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, the patients tethered to an iron lung from which only some survived and those who did were left with lifelong crippling disabilities.

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The facts are irrefutable. Vaccinations have allowed society the means to overcome dreadful disease and death and have contributed to the doubling of life expectancy over the past almost 200 years. My friend Jay Wissot, in his wonderful column, “You can’t fix stupid,” tells us rightly that those who deny facts may be too stupid to know how stupid they are. Get vaccinated and listen to the science.

Dr. Eugene Sacks

Edwards


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