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It shouldn’t be too easy to opt out of vaccinations

Post by Cheryl Tucker on March 24, 2011 at 7:36 pm with 4 Comments »
March 24, 2011 3:57 pm

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

When it comes to legislation pertaining to childhood vaccinations, state lawmakers should heed the experts – like the Washington State Medical Association and the Washington Academy of Family Physicians.

They should politely but firmly reject the medical opinions of people who get their information from questionable Internet sites and quacks.

The legislation in question is House Bill 1015 and its companion Senate Bill 5005. It requires that parents who don’t want their children to be immunized against such diseases as polio, whooping cough, measles and diphtheria submit proof that a health provider has informed them of the risks and benefits of immunization.

Immunization is required for children to enter public school, but parents are allowed to waive that requirement by signing a form claiming medical, religious or philosophical reasons. Public health officials are concerned that so many parents are opting out that the “herd immunity” benefit of immunization is in danger of being lost – threatening the outbreak of diseases not often seen anymore in this country.

Herd immunity refers to the protection from disease provided to unimmunized people due to a high rate of immunization in the community as a whole.

Washington has one of the highest immunization opt-out rates in the country. Thirty other states don’t allow an exemption for the nebulous “philosophical” reasons, and two don’t allow it for religious reasons.

States have an interest in promoting childhood immunization for public health reasons. Some children can’t be immunized for genuine medical reasons, and their health could be compromised if too many of their schoolmates’ parents opt out.

Some parents who sign the waiver do so out of real concern that vaccinations threaten their children’s health. Perhaps they read about the British doctor whose research linked vaccination with autism – research that has been thoroughly repudiated as falsified. Maybe they’ve read one of the many scare articles on the Internet, and they’d rather not take a chance.

Their fear is understandable, if not substantiated. Only a very few problems have been traced to vaccines, and the risk is infinitesimally small compared to that posed by diseases that once routinely killed thousands of children each year.

Parents who waive vaccination should realize that their children will be vulnerable to diseases brought to this country by unimmunized visitors, and they face a high risk of disease if they ever travel abroad, particularly to Third World countries.

Parents who sign waivers out of fear are in the minority. Doctors say that by far the greatest reason parents don’t get their children immunized is sheer inertia: They’re too busy with other matters to bother scheduling an appointment. It’s easier to just sign the waiver than to get the child vaccinated.

If the legislation under consideration gets those parents to attend to such a basic health care need, it will go a long way toward preserving the herd immunity for all children.

Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. sirlancealot says:

    At first glance I thought this article was about opting out of vacations. Which is what I did for spring break, since the price of gas keeps me from making the drive to a sunny, warm place. Any old sunny warm place would do. But I’m opting out.

    And if it’s true that this non vaccination trend is an intertia issue, then please get off the sofa and vaccinate your kids. My dog is required to be vaccinated to get groomed and kenneled – there IS no opt out for them. I suppose Washington has it’s priorities, well, consistent.

  2. These bills began as worthwhile efforts to increase Washington’s vaccination rates by requiring that parents wanting personal belief exemptions from immunizations listen to information from a health care provider about the risks and benefits of immunizations.

    Now, however, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee has recommended an amendment exempting parents with religious objections from getting the information.

    No religious group testified publicly for this concession. Instead, this right to be ignorant was apparently won by a backroom deal.

  3. Children who have not been vaccinated should be in private school or home schooled and not be allowed in public classrooms.

  4. BigPharmaDoubter says:

    There is no “undervaccination crisis” in WA state, and no upward disease trend.

    The WA DOH tracks vaccination rates for school age kids, this link is the 2009 / 2010 6th grade coverage

    95% + coverage of Polio, MMR. Hep B, 95% have 3/4 of DPT (a booster is required in 6th grade). The only one under 90% is chicken pox.

    An exemption is needed to opt out of or delay only one dose of any vaccine. Only 6.1% of students have exemptions on file, the most commonly delayed / opt out is the Chicken Pox Shot/ Varicella.

    Why? The CDC reports getting the Varicella shot at the same visit with the MMR increases the “normal” MMR seizure rate of 1/3500, to 1/2300. If you use the MMRV Pro-Quad shot you get a seizure rate of 1/1250. What is unscientific about reducing your childs seizure risk exposure by 60% if you can do that by product selection and dose timing?

    Particularly Chicken Pox, which until a profitable vaccine was developed was considered a very benign childhood disease. Question- What 2 of the 3 following killed about the same people annually in the US- Chicken Pox, Pop Rocks, or Lightning? Every death is a tragedy, but CP is primarily only dangerous to people with other grave health concerns.

    The CDC less than 70% vaccination rate is only achievable if you exclude someone who is missing any one dose from their “recommended” (not required for school entry schedule) schedule as “unvaccinated”.
    Coverage by antigen is very high, over 90%

    No increase in Disease rates
    In Washington in 2008 (latest year for statistics), according to the CDC (Summary of Notifiable Diseases – United States, 2008:… there were NO cases of Tetanus, Rubella, Polio, or Diphtheria, and only 2 cases of HIB, 14 of Mumps, and 19 of Measles.
    There were 460 possible Pertussis cases, but the vaccination rate is well over 90%, so the cases may have been misdiagnosed, as reported in the New York Times article Faith in Quick Test Leads to Epidemic That Wasn’t (

    Alternatively, many researchers think the Pertussis virus has mutated, and the vaccine doesn’t work on the new strain as reported in the San Diego area North County Times article of December 16, 2010, REGION: Most pertussis cases were vaccinated, data show: Expert says whooping cough mutating, becoming more infectious (

    So if we have well over 90% vax rates and low disease rates what is this really about?

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