Only half of Beaufort County School District’s rising seventh graders have submitted proof that they’ve been vaccinated against tetanus, diptheria and whooping cough. Less than a month remains for families to submit the proof before school starts Aug. 18.
State law rightfully bars students without the proper immunization from attending school.
We hope that the district is not headed down the same road as last year when it had to request a 30-day deadline extension because hundreds of students would have been sent home from school for failure to submit proof of their vaccination status. At this time last year, only 10 percent of students had complied with the requirement.
School officials say they doubt that will happen this year. They’ve sent reminders home to students. And area pediatricians are now aware of the rules and are giving booster shots during regular checkups. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control also held vaccination clinics in the schools in the spring to increase compliance.
It’s unclear why so many parents are slow to get their kids vaccinated. One likely culprit is the false belief that vaccines can be harmful.
While children should have vaccinations against 14 diseases by age 6, more than 1 in 10 U.S. parents reject that, refusing or delaying shots because of safety concerns, according to a national survey published in the journal, Pediatrics, this spring. Other studies have reached similar conclusions. The data suggest that more than 2 million infants and young children across the country may not be protected against preventable diseases, some of which are deadly and can cause disabilities.
Why would parents say no to vaccines that protect their children from deadly diseases, including the flu and whooping cough?
* False information and junk science that has been sensationalized. For example, many parents falsely believe a link exists between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism rates. The belief persists despite scientific evidence to the contrary and the debunking of the high-profile studies that claimed such a link existed.
Indeed, it is startling that one in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder — a 30 percent increase from 1 in 88 two years ago. But it’s dangerous to assume that a potentially life-saving vaccine is the culprit when such a large body of scientific evidence to the contrary exists. Furthermore, to choose not to vaccinate not only puts the unvaccinated child at risk, but other children and adults too because it jeopardizes the herd immunity that protects us all.
* 21st century life. Most of today’s young parents do not recall the time when diseases such as polio killed and disabled large numbers of American children. In the late 1940s and the early 1950s, polio crippled an average of more than 35,000 people annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and was one of the most feared diseases of the 20th century. Parents were frightened to let their children go outside, particularly during the summer months when the virus peaked. Health officials imposed quarantines on homes and whole towns in an effort to control its spread. Thanks to an effective vaccine, the United States has been polio-free since 1979. But that record can only be maintained by continued vaccination as the disease still exists in other countries.
We urge parents who have concerns about vaccines to speak with their health care provider — and their parents who likely remember the polio scare.
We should all be concerned about the re-emergence of deadly diseases, including measles, one of the top killers of children worldwide. The disease was thought to be eliminated from the U.S. in 2000 through a successful vaccination program, but government officials now say the number of confirmed cases has reached a 20-year high. It’s no surprise that 90 percent of U.S. measles cases are among people who haven’t been vaccinated for the disease or who didn’t know their vaccination status.
We can do better than this for ourselves and our children. Get vaccinated.