Letter: Mandatory Vaccinations

My very first memory on this earth is looking up from my hospital bed and seeing the worried look on the faces of my grandparents. It was 1946 and at the age of three, I almost died from double pneumonia and measles. On Sept. 9, 1950, only four years later, I was stricken with polio, and my life was never the same. For months, I could not walk. For years, I wore a brace. After two surgeries, I walked with a limp, which grows worse over time. The pain of spending five months in a hospital at age seven, removed from my parents, remains with me to this day. 

Some people speak of the “good old days,” but I think these are the good days. My two children were inoculated against both the measles and polio, and I can cry with joy that they do not have to go through what I endured. To me that is progress — plain and simple. 

At the very same time that philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates are donating billions of dollars to eradicate diseases around the world, Rotary Club members are raising millions of dollars to make polio a thing of the past and aid workers in Pakistan are literally risking their lives to inoculate children, there are parents living right here in California — though well-intentioned and often well-educated — who refuse to inoculate their own kids. For some parents, disproven theories and concern about government intervention trump the medical community and science. These parents are governed by fear, to the detriment of their loved ones. 

Were parents only risking the health of their own children, that would be bad enough, but by denying access to inoculation, they are endangering all of our children, especially infants and those with a compromised immune system. That cannot be allowed. 

State Senators Richard Pan and Ben Allen are introducing legislation which will remove the so-called “personal belief exemption” which currently allows over 10,000 parents in California to deny vaccines for their children. Our United States Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer want to go one step further by eliminating the religious exemption. I agree with them wholeheartedly. It is not enough to say that those who refuse inoculation on religious grounds should simply home school their children. These same children mix with other children at playgrounds, places of worship and, yes, Disneyland, where more than 100 people were recently infected with measles. 

It is unconscionable that some parents choose to deny their own children inoculation from these dreaded diseases. It should not be their choice. I am sure they love their children every bit as much as I love mine, and they believe in their hearts they are protecting them, but they are not. They are exposing their loved ones and ours to what I went through, and that is unacceptable. 

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Burt Ross 

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