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BILL CRAWFORD: Keep schools free from preventable diseases

Bill Crawford

Bill Crawford

Health science saves lives, particularly in Mississippi.

Since scientific research by Dr. Jonas Salk produced the polio vaccine in the mid-1950s, vaccines developed by health scientists have brought seven major human diseases under some control – smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, yellow fever, whooping cough, polio, and measles. Unfortunately, hepatitis B is not yet one of them.
Mississippi can stand proud.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that for 2013-14, Mississippi had the largest percentage of kindergartners in public and private schools who have been vaccinated against diseases,” the Associated Press reported.
Mississippi’s success results primarily from a law that prohibits children from entering school until they get vaccinations prescribed by the state health officer. The state adopted this law to protect citizens, especially children, from “vaccine preventable diseases” – polio, hepatitis B, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox.
Comes now a group calling itself “Mississippi Parents for Vaccine Rights” wanting Mississippi to stand down when it comes to vaccinations. They want the law changed to allow for “conscientious objections” so their children can attend school without vaccinations.
Bless their hearts. They must not understand the awful history of contagious diseases before vaccinations.
But, are they so blind they cannot see that health science is a gift from God to ease pain, suffering, and needless death?
In 1952, prior to Salk vaccine availability, a polio epidemic in the U.S. left 3,145 dead and 21,269 paralyzed – mostly children. With the vaccine, polio had been virtually wiped out in America. It has now seen resurgence in areas allowed to refuse vaccines.
How many children, besides theirs, are they willing to put at risk?
In 2010, ten infants in California died from a whooping cough epidemic. Health officials researched the cause of the outbreak and found vaccine refusal among family members to be a key factor in the deaths.
Almost 100,000 new Americans get infected with hepatitis B each year. About 5,000 die from the disease and its complications. In areas of the world where vaccination rates are low, deaths are in the hundreds of thousands.
Do they know it just takes one?
In 2005, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, one unvaccinated 17-year-old girl returned to Indiana from a church mission Romania where she unknowingly contracted the measles. That led to the largest documented measles epidemic in the U.S. since 1996. A similar measles epidemic recently started at Disneyland.
Surely no responsible leader would willingly open school doors to contagious disease. We have enough issues for our health scientists to deal with as it is. And this is one we have under control.
Pray most legislators and our governor understand that public safety is a proper function of state government, and that includes keeping our schools free from preventable diseases.
 
» Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (crawfolk@gmail.com)

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