Miss. House attempts to dismantle state immunization law: Part II

Published 7:00 am Friday, March 18, 2016

Recently Mississippi legislators passed HB 938 to denounce the current law as requiring “bureaucracy to come between a family and their physician.” Buttressed by raw emotion and testimonials, the House voted by 65 to 54, mainly along party lines, to decimate the state’s main bulwark against communicable childhood diseases like measles, whooping cough, and polio.
The bill would allow any physician anywhere in the nation to write a exemption for a child they examined to attend school without immunizations. The exemption then must be accepted by the school, meaning the child without all or part of their vaccinations must be enrolled.
Part of the reason for the angst of some parents over immunizations is we have all forgotten what a transformation in public health resulted from the development of vaccinations. For so many years, Dr. Arthur Guyton, world famous professor of physiology at UMMC, put a face on what the ravages of polio can do. It is now mostly grandparents who remember lining up to get the sugar cube anti-polio vaccines, and the relief of our parents that the Salk vaccine would protect us from that terrible disease.
About 50 years ago, a Rubella or German measles pandemic that traveled here from Europe killed about 21,000 newborns nationwide. Another 12,000 were born deaf, 3,580 were blind, and 1,800 were brain damaged.
Today, there are very real concerns in the medical community about outbreaks of whooping cough/diphtheria, measles, and mumps. Looking only at one disease, the average cost of hospitalizing a child or infant with whooping cough is over $12,000.
It is estimated that vaccination with at least 7 of the 12 recommended childhood vaccines saves $10 billion in direct costs nationally, plus an additional $30 billion in costs due to disability and loss productivity resulting from having a now preventable disease.
As every parent knows, school classrooms can be perfect breeding grounds for communicable diseases. If one child gets the flu, every child in the classroom and the teacher are more likely to get the flu.
It’s the same with measles, mumps, whooping cough, chicken pox, rubella and polio. These diseases spread rapidly where there are clusters of un-immunized children. And these diseases prey upon the most vulnerable: the child recovering from cancer, the too young to be immunized baby brother, the child with sickle cell, the baby in the womb.
We all feel for the parents who are convinced that vaccinations harm their children. However, evidence does not support their fears. Vaccines are safe. We have a nationally recognized State Health Officer in Dr. Mary Currier. We have not seen the outbreaks of preventable childhood diseases that have hospitalized so many children in other states. We are doing a good job at this.
Please call your state senators and ask them to oppose HB 938 (601-359-3267). And let your state House members how you feel about their passing it (601-359-3770). Some House members have responded to a very vocal minority; please let the voice of common sense be heard.

Published March 7, 2016, by the Clarion Ledger.
Lynn Evans is a past Jackson School Board Member and a contributing columnist to the Clarion Ledger.

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