Letter: Mesa County hosts many under-immunized kids
Editor’s note: This letter relates to a health column, “Childhood vaccines & herd immunity” (April 20), plus a subsequent letter to the editor, “Colorado’s ‘opt-out’ vaccine exemption policies not as lax as columnist stated” (May 5). Both pieces can be read online: http://www.gjfreepress.com.
I appreciate Dr. Anable’s update from the Colorado Board of Health. Unfortunately, the timing of this new law is too late to have any effect on Colorado school immunization rates for this school year or for the next one, 2015-16. Secondly, I am skeptical that simply requiring a parental signature each year will motivate much change in vaccination behaviors. It will create a paperwork nightmare for our already stretched-thin Mesa County Valley District 51 school nurses.
Nationwide, there is an abundance of evidence that when personal exemption “opt out” laws are lax, as they are in Colorado, outbreaks of vaccine preventable disease flourish. Mesa County hosts significant pockets of under-immunized kids, not only in the charter schools, but in a majority of the other elementary schools as well. Eight of the 25 K-5 elementary schools have immunization rates less than 90 percent. Only two K-5 schools, DosRios and Fruitvale, exceed the 95-percent compliance level that is required for herd immunity against measles. This an epidemic waiting to happen!
Dr. Anable is correct in stating that it is not possible to sort out the types of exemptions. However, in visiting both with school nurses and pediatricians, their consensus is that personal reasons — not religious or medical — represent the vast majority of vaccine exemptions in Mesa County. On the other hand, that small group of kids who choose not to immunize for religious reasons, those who cannot receive vaccines because of malignancies or are otherwise immuno-compromised and the infants who are too young to be immunized are the real potential victims of the personal vaccine exemptors.
No medical, surgical or chiropractic intervention is entirely safe. Childhood vaccines are extra-ordinarily safe, but rarely significant bad things happen after a vaccination. Car seats have consistently shown to save kids’ lives, but very rarely a secured child is trapped in a fire or water. Prudent parents make tough decisions for their children all day long. The preponderance of evidence weighs toward both using car seats and protecting your child and the rest of the children of the community with vaccines.
Dr. Phil Mohler
Grand Junction, Colo.
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