Tribune Editorial: Make foolish anti-vax parents acknowledge the risk

In this Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015 photo, pediatrician Charles Goodman holds a dose of the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine at his practice in Northridge, Calif. The vaccine is 99 percent effective at preventing measles, which spreads easily through the air and in enclosed spaces. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Two million children a year. Maybe 3 million.

That’s how many lives are saved world wide each year by the routine vaccination of children, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and (don’t forget) Prevention put the number — over a 20-year period beginning in 1994 — at 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children that were avoided by the widespread use of vaccinations that prevent such diseases as measles, rubella, mumps, pertussis, hepatitis B, pneumonia and polio.

It may be the greatest accomplishment in the history of science. Yet, according to WHO, the fact that about 15 percent of the world isn’t getting the benefits of vaccines leads to maybe 1.5 million deaths a year.

Meanwhile, here in Utah, members of the Legislature are foolishly playing with people’s lives by insisting that the Utah Department of Health soften — or even remove — the warning that is given to parents who choose not to vaccinate their children.

The form parents are expected to sign if they accept the state’s offer of a personal — rather than a religious or medical — exemption from the requirements that children be fully vaccinated before entering any public or private school says, among other things, “I understand that I am responsible for the risks of not vaccinating this child.”

This is a straightforward statement of fact. Parents are responsible for their children and for the risks that those children are subjected to if they fail to be vaccinated. That risk should be acknowledged — in writing.

If anything, that statement is not strong enough. It is not only the children who skip the shot who are placed at risk, but the rest of the community as well.

Unvaccinated human bodies are sanctuaries for all manner of viruses. Left unmolested in one host, those viruses will find it much easier to grow and then to infect others. Other unvaccinated people are at greatest risk, of course, but that group includes children who are too young to have begun the regime, as well as the small numbers of people who should have avoided vaccines due to their own weak immune systems, or who have received inoculations that didn’t work.

Widespread belief that childhood vaccinations are somehow responsible for an increase in autism or other maladies is largely based on the biggest example of Fake News seen in modern times.

It was wrong for the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee to tell the health department, as it did earlier this month, to remove that or any other language that might be seen as blaming parents for making a fooling decision.

Because skipping vaccinations for children is a foolish decision, whether the state says so or not. It should say so.