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Catherine Durkin Robinson: Anti-immunization insanity endangers kids

The other night I received a recorded message from my children’s principal. He called to inform parents that a student at my sons’ high school has TB and – that’s all I heard.

Like any sleep-deprived mom about ten minutes late for happy hour, I immediately shrieked, dropped the phone and went online for answers. If I had paid attention to the call, I would have learned that this kid is a former student and only came into direct contact with a few people who have already been contacted for testing. My two sons were fine.

This is what happens when parents freak out and stop listening.

Which brings me to the recent outbreak of measles, thanks in part to uninformed, shrieking anti-vaccine moms.

You know the type. They wear Croc’s with long skirts and smell like sandalwood.

And they are endangering the lives of millions of people.

I’m all for parental choice, and moms everywhere are entitled to act insane – as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

Sure, sing along with The Wiggles.

Rock that nose ring.

Read The Bible.

Watch The View.

But when you decide to follow junk science and opt-out of the immunization schedule recommended by pediatricians, you put other children and adults at risk. And that’s not OK. Numerous studies have shown that vaccines are safe and aren’t causing autism. Quite the opposite, really. Vaccines are quite helpful, what with eradicating disease and all.

Yet many parents are still not vaccinating their kids.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “The U.S. experienced a record number of measles cases last year, with 644 infections reported from 27 states.” It’s only January and already the Disneyland case has resulted in almost 90 infections this year.

These numbers need to stop going up.

In Florida, school districts have their hands tied. They must allow unvaccinated children to enroll in schools because of a 1971 rule that says parents can choose not to vaccinate for “religious reasons.” This is a broad definition, and I spoke with many people at the Florida Department of Health who said it was a simple process for a parent to gain exemption and officials are not to question them about it.

Parents get the exemption and enroll their kids in school with ours.

The only group of people who can change this ridiculous rule are legislators. If they removed this rule, schools wouldn’t have to accept unvaccinated kids. This would compel most parents to vaccinate their children.

Or keep them at home.

Removing the rule would prevent what is shaping up to be a genuine health care crisis in this country. So that’s where you come in – because legislators work for us, the people. And when we care enough about a particular issue, we can compel them to act in our best interest.

Why should you care?

Is your child undergoing cancer treatment or any other serious medical condition that keeps him from being vaccinated? Being around unvaccinated kids puts him in danger.

Are you one of the 3 percent who received a vaccination but you don’t produce enough antibodies, or you do but not the kind that latch on to the virus and kill it? Chances are, you won’t know this until it’s too late. You are in danger.

Is your baby too young to get vaccinated? Infants have a 90 percent risk of infection. They are in danger.

Are you a pregnant woman? You are in danger.

Are you elderly? In. Danger.

Do you love and care for any of the above? Then get on it.

The state has a compelling interest in protecting its residents from harm. I reached out to two Florida lawmakers, Sen. Aaron Bean and Sen. Alan Hays, who have been instrumental in helping advance the cause of healthy children. I encourage everyone in Florida to do the same.

And then call your own senator and representative.

Lawmakers must take up this cause and protect their constituents. If parents want to ignore the advice of doctors and medical professionals, that’s fine. They shouldn’t be allowed to come near my children and endanger our most vulnerable citizens.

Keep them out of our schools.

Catherine Durkin Robinson is a political advocate and organizer, living in Tampa. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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