The Kids Whose Lives Anti-Vaxxers Are Putting At Risk Every Day
The measles outbreak that originated in California's Disneyland last month and spread to six states has left many people scampering, particularly parents agonized over their children's health. But as the mistaken belief that vaccinations are more detrimental than beneficial stubbornly spreads, parents whose children are fatally at risk of anti-vaxxers are most angered by the movement, which they say put their already-sick child in even more danger.
The outbreak has led to parents taking drastic measures, such as Carl Krawitt demanding his son's school ban unvaccinated children. At six, Krawitt's son Rhett, who battled leukemia for the past four-and-a-half years, has undergone countless rounds of chemotherapy. Though his cancer is now in remission, Rhett's immune system is still being rebuilt, and his body is not yet healthy enough for immunizations. Krawitt's legitimate fear for his son's life has made his exasperation towards the anti-vaccination movement even stronger. He told NPR:
It's very emotional for me. If you choose not to immunize your own child and your own child dies because they get measles, OK, that's your responsibility, that's your choice. But if your child gets sick and gets my child sick and my child dies, then ... your action has harmed my child.
Krawitt, who, along with his wife, Jodi, emailed the district superintendent requesting that the district:
[Require] immunization as a condition of attendance, with the only exception being those who cannot medically be vaccinated.
To make matters worse, the Krawitts live in Marin, a California county with unfortunately the highest opt-out rate in the Bay Area — and one of the highest in the state — due to "personal belief exemptions," which allow parents to send their kids, unvaccinated for measles, polio, whooping cough and more, to school.
Another parent facing the same dilemma is Dr. Tim Jacks — a pediatrician, no less — whose three-year-old daughter Maggie, was exposed to measles after being at the same the center in Phoenix Children's Hospital in Mesa, Arizona, as a child with measles. While Maggie, too weak for immunization herself, cannot be vaccinated for the disease, Jacks told the website AZFamily.com that he hoped other parents realize how their decision to not get their kids vaccinated affects others, adding:
There's the father in me that's just pissed off and angry and wanting to protect my family... One of the best medical advancements in our lifetime is immunization. And, that has increased life span, it has increased health.
A highly contagious disease, measles was rampant in the 1960s, killing about 450 people each year. But by 2000, it had largely been eliminated in the U.S., credited to an almost universal vaccine use. The situation has since worsened, though, as — thanks to a growing anti-vaccine trend, promoted tirelessly by ill-informed celebrities and parents, espousing the link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism in children that has since been thoroughly debunked — 2014 saw 664 cases of measles, and now, close to a month in the new year, 70 cases have been linked to the Disneyland outbreak.
Although the risk of contracting measles is high, children going through cancer treatment are the ones at the shortest end of the stick. Speaking to NPR, Dr. Robert Goldsby, Rhett's oncologist, said:
When your immune system isn't working as well, it allows many different infections to be worse. It's not just Rhett. There are hundreds of other kids in the Bay Area that are going through cancer therapy, and it's not fair to them. They can't get immunized; they have to rely on their friends and colleagues and community to help protect them.
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