Isaac Stanley-Becker at The Washington Post:
Chickenpox has taken hold of a school in North Carolina where many families claim religious exemption from vaccines.
Cases of chickenpox have been multiplying at the Asheville Waldorf School, which serves children from nursery school to sixth grade in Asheville, N.C. About a dozen infections grew to 28 at the beginning of the month. By Friday, there were 36, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.
The outbreak ranks as the state’s worst since the chickenpox vaccine became available more than 20 years ago. Since then, the two-dose course has succeeded in limiting the highly contagious disease that once affected 90 percent of Americans — a public health breakthrough.
The school is a symbol of the small but strong movement against the most effective means of preventing the spread of infectious diseases. The percentage of children under 2 years old who haven’t received any vaccinations has quadrupled since 2001, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Like the Disneyland measles outbreak in 2015, the flare-up demonstrates the real-life consequences of a shadowy debate fueled by junk science and fomented by the same sort of Twitter bots and trolls that spread misinformation during the 2016 presidential election. And it shows how a seemingly fringe view can gain currency in a place like Asheville, a funky, year-round resort town nestled between the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.Chickenpox spreads fast and can have very serious effects.
But not all parents seemed to grasp the gravity of the outbreak. Nor does everyone see the rationale behind vaccines, which some believe — contrary to scientific evidence — cause more severe health issues than they’re meant to cure. The claim of an autism risk, though it has been debunked, has remained a rallying cry of the anti-vaccine movement.
Antivax organizations such as Texans For Vaccine Choice are push exemptions for students in public schools, and they are also says that state-regulated day care centers should be subject to the same exemptions. An editorial in The Dallas Morning News says "That's madness."
Applying the personal exemption standard to child care facilities would be a dangerous road to take. The CDC recommends that children do not start to get vaccines for measles until they reach at least 12 months of age. Should parents have to risk their kids getting the measles at such a young age from older, unvaccinated children? We don’t believe so.
Texas was one of 25 states last year to report cases of the measles. Medical experts and researchers say that the continued growth in the number of parents not getting their children vaccinated is increasing the risk of a measles outbreak. One doctor said, “It is really not a question of whether these outbreaks will occur but when.”
We should be thankful that technology and medical advances managed to bring us out of the dark ages. It’s remarkable that in the early 1960s, measles cases numbered in the hundreds of thousands. By the early 1990s, measles practically vanished. Now, it’s slowly starting to make a comeback.
Texans For Vaccine Choice is only trying to make things worse, and their position that personal exemptions are allowed for child care facilities is something Texans cannot accept.