Letter: Helping the Herd

Letter to the Editor

We, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Health and Safety District Advisory Committee, strongly support the school district’s efforts in educating the public regarding the importance of vaccination given the recent cases of measles we’ve seen in the district. The Health and Safety District Advisory Committee is composed of a group of community members and parents that advises the district on issues related to health and safety.

Measles is a highly contagious disease spread through coughing and sneezing. It can lead to serious complications like hearing loss (1 in 10 cases can result in hearing loss), pneumonia (1 in 20 cases; most common cause of death), encephalitis (1 in 1,000 cases; results from swelling of the brain) and even death (1 in 1,000 cases). The disease is preventable with the Measles Mumps Rubella vaccine and was thought to be eradicated in the U.S. since 2000 until several recent cases, which include the infection of a baseball coach at Santa Monica High School and an infant at a childcare center located on the high school’s campus.

In our community, immunization rates have fallen low enough that the disease has resurfaced. While there are those who are unimmunized due to medical reasons (people who are immunocompromised due to a medical condition or medical treatment, as well as infants under the age of 12 months who are not candidates because of their age), our community contains large numbers of unvaccinated children because parents have opted out of vaccinations because of personal belief. This has allowed our community to lose the protection of herd immunity and freedom from measles. Unfortunately, the children who are most threatened are unimmunized because of medical reasons, not parental choice.

Our committee supports our district’s strong efforts to encourage parents to make sure that those children who can be vaccinated are vaccinated. Additionally, we look forward to any legislation that will lead to increased vaccination rates, including legislation recently proposed by former School Board member and our current State Senator Ben Allen that would eliminate the personal belief exemption for vaccines.

Sion Roy