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Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words letters@seattletimes.com.

March 24, 2011 at 4:02 PM

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Bill would require doctor's note for immunization exemption

Posted by Letters editor

Sensible legislation

Editor, The Times:

The debate about the immunization-exemption bill is at its root a debate about values that conflict: the state’s duty to protect the public health and an individual’s right to free choice [“Vaccine skeptics protest bill requiring doc’s note,” page one, March 23].

The key question is at what point does the risk to public health trump free choice? In the past decade U.S. outbreaks of measles and whooping cough have shown that individuals who opted out of immunization are 35 times more likely to acquire and transmit measles.

At Seattle Children’s we care for many patients whose immune systems are severely compromised, who are thus especially vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, who cannot themselves be vaccinated and rely on community protection. Make no mistake these diseases have both serious health and economic consequences that impact individuals, families and communities. At Seattle Children’s last year an infant died from whooping cough and another required many weeks of intensive care on an artificial lung.

Today Washington state has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in school-entry immunization exemptions. It is easier for a parent to claim an exemption than get a needed vaccine. We have 11 counties in Washington where more than 10 percent of children opt out.

The immunization-exemption bill seeks to better balance choice and public health by attempting to make sure that Washington parents who choose not to vaccinate are well-informed about the risks of vaccine-preventable disease and the benefits and risks of modern vaccines: no more, no less. It is a sensible piece of legislation that should be enacted by thoughtful legislators.

— Edgar K. Marcuse, MD, Seattle Children’s

Strong reasons against vaccination

I was upset but not surprised when I read in your paper Wednesday that Pharma is now escalating its intimidation of parents by trying to have a bill passed that would make it even more difficult for them to avoid vaccinating their children. Unfortunately, the article was biased in favor of the vaccine industry which makes billions of dollars injecting toxic chemicals into perfectly healthy bodies. Would you ask the fox if it is good for chickens to have their heads bitten off?

Despite growing evidence of the dangers of vaccines, in her article, reporter Carol Ostrom slants the story to portray parents opposed to vaccines as ignorant nincompoops too lazy to get out of bed and get their children vaccinated.

In fact, the opposite is true. Many parents opposed to vaccines have had children who have been sickened and even killed by vaccines. They have taken the time to study the issue for themselves, to read the many books written on the subject, listen to the experiences of other parents, and using their common sense and intelligence have come to their own conclusions.

It is parents who never research vaccines for themselves and allow themselves to have massive guilt imposed upon them and dire consequences threatened against their children, if they are not vaccinated, who allow their children to be vaccinated.

Vaccines are a billion-dollar industry for the pharmaceutical industry. Not only does it make money with its vaccines, the harm caused by vaccines turn the victims into chronically ill repeat customers as they come back to doctors for more drugs and therapies to try and “cure” the harm done by the vaccines.

— Britt Lind, Lake Stevens

Vaccination fears often unfounded

Rep. Barbara Bailey and Sen. Karen Keiser are to be commended and supported for sponsoring a bill requiring parents to obtain a doctor’s note to opt out of vaccinations for their children. I have seen the importance of vaccination for children firsthand.

At my daughters’ school in 2007, more than 10 percent of the kids were absent in early February with influenza and, tragically, a second-grader died of complications resulting from the flu. In the face of this tragedy, I and a group of other concerned parents have organized an after-school flu-vaccination program each fall, with the support of the PTA, local pediatric offices, Seattle Children’s hospital, and Seattle-King County Public Health.

In the four years that we have run these clinics, we have delivered over 1,000 vaccinations without any adverse effects in children, and the school has not experienced the high levels of absenteeism from flu that were so common before we began our program.

Every year, however, there are kids who cannot be vaccinated due to chronic illness or impaired immune function. Parents who opt not to have their children vaccinated for flu and other childhood diseases put these medically fragile kids at great risk and unfairly benefit from the “herd immunity” that results when the majority of healthy infants and children are vaccinated. Their fears of vaccination are too often based on uninformed Internet chatter that is put forward with absolute confidence in the absence of data.

Child vaccinations are a social good that benefits the many, and parents should not be able to easily evade their responsibility to protect their kids and their classmates.

— Eliot Brenowitz, Seattle

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