Our View: Roll up your sleeves, please | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Roll up your sleeves, please

At issue:

10 percent of school students here have avoided immunizations

Our view:

A personal choice, yes, but shots are in the greater community interest

We were taken aback by the news last week that roughly 10 percent of students in the Steamboat Springs School District have claimed exemptions from immunizations, as allowed by state law. Regretfully, we conclude that some parents have been swayed by sensationalized mass media reports blaming measles vaccinations for the high rates of autism in our county and the nation.

We hope they will revisit recent scientific research in this regard and reconsider.

Reacting to a reporter’s questions, Steamboat Springs School Superintendent Brad Meeks told Steamboat Today this month that 246 of the district’s approximately 2,500 students have opted out of immunizations, and of those, 97 students have not received the MMR – measles, jumps and rubella – vaccination.

The avoidance of MMR shots has been tied to a lingering international and national fear, based on an 1998 report in a British medical journal long-since debunked by multiple credible research studies, that a mercury-based preservative in the vaccine is tied to several health issues, including the incidence of autism spectrum in children.

We can relate, from personal experience, to the anxiety parents sometimes experience related to threats to the health of their own children. However, public health officials have concluded the danger posed by measles is more real than the autism scare tactics advanced by television personalities like Jenny McCarthy.

And although the decision to opt out of immunizations can be described as a personal one, going down that path poses a danger to the entire community when it comes to infectious diseases.

The school children who have caught a case of the measles in California this winter pose a potential threat not only to their classmates, but to younger siblings and grandparents.

None of us want to return to an earlier time when children routinely came down with measles, or, heaven forbid, polio.

We urge families in Northwest Colorado to heed the advice of healthcare professionals and to seek out credible sources to allay their fears of vaccinations. A good place to reassure themselves about the falsehood of any link between measles shots and autism is in the Nova section of PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends all children have two doses of the MMR vaccine, with the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 to 6 years of age. Coincidentally, 12 to 15 months is the age when parents of children who are on the autism spectrum begin to realize that their youngster is behind the developmental curve. But studies cited in the PBS article have determined there is no link.

The Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition released a report last week revealing that Colorado has the lowest rate in the nation of kindergartners vaccinated for measles, at about 82 percent, and that’s a matter of great concern.

If your children have not been immunized, there are several ways to get them the shots they and their siblings and classmates deserve. Vaccinations are available at many pharmacies and physicians offices in Steamboat, as well as the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association office.

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