Suck It Anti-Vaxxers, This Dr. Says Your Infectious Spawn Shouldn’t Be Allowed In Public Schools

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shutterstock_129788369__1396452968_142.196.167.223“Schools are the setting in which children are most consistently exposed to large numbers of their peers in close quarters, and thus it is of paramount importance that they remain as protected as possible against contagion.” Truer words were never spoken.

Dr. Russel Saunders wrote a piece for Salon this week, explaining his take on childhood vaccinations. As a pediatrician, he believes everyone should be vaccinated except for the small minority of children for which vaccination poses serious health risks. He points to the scary trend of parents seeking exemptions from schools mandating the vaccines – and believes is a “very dangerous precedent.”

Thus, so-called religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination should be abandoned. Anti-vaccine advocacy groups are all too happy to provide their fellow travelers with information on what their states will allow while still permitting their children to attend public schools. The only kind of exemption from vaccination that should not also preclude public school enrollment is a medical one. All others are an irresponsible threat to public health.

There are parents with children who have a medical diagnosis that prevents them from being able to receive vaccinations safely. For the record, when people talk about “anti-vaxxers” – no one is talking about these parents. I’ve seen parents of children who require medical exemptions become irate when we speak of keeping unvaccinated children out of public schools or in common waiting areas at doctor’s offices. People who vehemently believe in the public health necessity of vaccinations do so to help these children who may have compromised immune systems most of all. In a nutshell – no one is talking about you or your kids or is including you in this argument.

Those who call for vaccinations for all children, do it for the good of society – not just their own families. That’s why it’s so frustrating to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t understand this.  If your child is vaccinated why do you care? I’m never surprised when I hear this question posed, because anti-vaxxers can’t see outside of their own self interests. They do not have science on their side. They benefit from living in a time where vaccines eradicated many awful, awful diseases – diseases that are coming back because some parents choose to believe Internet memes and celebrities over actual doctors. It’s absurd. And it’s affecting all of us.

So what’s to be done about this? At what point do we look the anti-vaccine movement in the eye and say “enough”? How far should efforts to keep our population protected against wholly preventable illnesses go?

“Philosophical” objections should be stricken altogether. What is a philosophical objection except a gussied-up way of saying “doesn’t like vaccines”? They make no sense as public policy, and are a sop to parents who want to let others take the risks they mistakenly associate with vaccines while allowing their children to benefit from herd immunity, but for some reason chafe at the notion of calling their superstition “religion.”

Is everyone sick of reading about the vaccine argument yet? Too bad. I’m going to share the ideas of medical doctors until those who would jump on some ridiculous anti-science bandwagon pull their heads out of their asses – which I don’t envision will be soon.

Repealing laws across our country that allow parents wiggle room in this regard is an important first step in making our schools and communities safer. Freedom is an important value, and one that we should protect and defend. But so is responsibility to the public good. Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children have the freedom to do so, but there’s no reason others should pay for the decision.

(photo: JohnKwan/ Shutterstock)