More than 3,000 students in Prince George’s County are in danger of not being able to attend school because they have not received required vaccinations.
County school officials have been offering free vaccinations and scrambling to remind parents of the Oct. 31 deadline to prove that their children have been vaccinated against measles, mumps, whooping cough and other communicable diseases.
Starting this school year, Maryland public schools require proof that students entering kindergarten have received two chicken pox vaccinations, and students starting the seventh grade must have received the Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-attenuated pertussis) and meningococcal vaccinations.
Angela M. Wakhweya, chief of school health policy, services and innovation, said the school district has been calling, messaging and sending forms home with children to inform parents of the deadline. This week, the school system set up 15 vaccination clinics in middle schools, the category of schools with the most students out of compliance.
“We believe we will reach them by the October 31 deadline,” Wakhweya said.
In the age of Ebola and other vaccine -preventable illness, Prince George’s County parents and others elsewhere in Maryland and around the world needs to move in with speed and take care of the children with the proper vaccinations before we get into the middle of winter etc. This is a critical for all children of Prince George’s County in particular. Let us get this one done. CEO Maxwell should be working around the clock to make sure that all children in the county are properly taken care of at this time and in all schools.
According Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the director of its Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research. He blogs about health policy that, although vaccines are required for entry into school in most places in the United States, the government does allow for exceptions, like religious reasons.
In the last few years though, the rates of vaccine-preventable illness such as measles and mumps have been on the rise. In most cases, these outbreaks began with children who were unvaccinated. In a school environment, an unvaccinated child who has a contagious disease can more easily spread it to other children.
To combat this threat, some schools in New York for example have been refusing to allow unvaccinated children to attend school, where they might start outbreaks or make outbreaks worse. Several parents thought this was unfair and filed lawsuits. Just recently, though, a federal court ruled in favor of the city schools, citing that government has the power to make decisions that would protect public health.
The court made the right decision. Immunizations are important because they allow us to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
Vaccine policy depends not only on the added protection that vaccines confer upon those who get shots, but also on the decreased likelihood that anyone will come into contact with the disease. This is known as herd immunity. It refers to the fact that when enough people are immunized, then there really can’t be an outbreak. And if there can’t be an outbreak, then everyone is protected, even those who can’t get vaccinated.
This is critical, because there are people who are at increased risk for communicable diseases but cannot be given immunizations for various reasons. Small babies are susceptible to certain diseases, but can’t be given all vaccines. The elderly sometimes have less-well functioning immune systems, and are at higher risk for diseases. The same goes for all immune-compromised patients, who are always under threat of infection.
We don’t just get vaccines to protect ourselves. We don’t just give them to our children to protect them. We do this so that all those other people are protected as well.
In 1995, the varicella vaccine, or the chicken pox vaccine, was introduced in the United States. Over time, more and more children received it. In 2011, a study was published in the journal Pediatrics that looked at how the program affected the number of children who died from the disease.
The first thing noted in the paper was that death from chicken pox went down significantly from before the vaccine was released. From 2001 through 2007, the rates of death remained much lower, with just a few children dying from chicken pox nationally each year.
What’s notable is that from 2004 through 2007, not one child less than 1 year of age died in the United States from chicken pox. None. This is remarkable, because we cannot give the varicella vaccine to babies. It’s only approved for children 1 year or older.
In other words, all those babies were saved not because we vaccinated them against this illness. They were saved because older children were. Enough of the older kids were vaccinated to grant herd immunity that protected babies from getting sick.
Widespread vaccination prevents disease outbreaks. This protects all people from getting ill.
“People who refuse to vaccinate themselves, or their children, aren’t just putting themselves at risk — they’re putting everyone else in danger, too.” he concludes.