Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Children Are Abusive

What began as a curious story of a small measles outbreak in, of all places, the so-called Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland, has stretched to nearly 100 cases across 8 states and into Mexico.

With all the health problems that can befall people, the last thing we need is for people themselves to harm each other by not getting vaccinated against scourges that modern medicine has already eradicated.

Parents who choose not to give their children vaccinations due to irrational mistrust of medical science not only put their own children in harm’s way, but allow diseases which should remain in history books to resurrect.

As an educator who works in a public school, I have no choice but to be tested for tuberculosis every 4 years. Why? So if I am infected I don’t pass it along to children. I can’t opt out.

However, parents do have that option by filling out the California Department of Public Health’s Personal Beliefs Exemption to Required Immunizations or PBE. Last year, the PBE was revised to require the signature of an “authorized health care practitioner.” While this requirement was intended to make it harder for the form to be completed, all a parent has to do is check off the “religious beliefs” box which requires no medical employee to sign it.

A few short months ago the Ebola hysteria consumed the nation.   Yet there is much more likelihood of a child catching measles than Ebola in this country, a disease with a 90% chance of transference when in contact with an infected individual.

Luckily, the Glendale-Burbank area has been spared thus far. Glendale Unified School District Health Services Coordinator Lynda Burlison said that in the nearly 20 years she was worked in the district, “the last case of measles that I can recall was back in 2000.”

Very few parents have submitted PBEs. Still, there are some schools which have a significant number of children who do not have all their shots.

By visiting the California Department of Education’s (CDE) website and navigating to the Shots for School link, anybody can type in a zip code and click on a specific preschool, elementary, or middle school to receive immediate information.

Schools with fewer than 70% of fully vaccinated students earn a “most vulnerable” rating by the CDE.   Based on the most current information available from the 2013-14 school year, Burbank has one such school, Walt Disney Elementary (how ironic), with 62.8% of the kids there vaccinated.

Glendale, however, has four elementary schools ranked “most vulnerable” with an “increased risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases”: Thomas Jefferson at 68.7%, John Muir at 63.8%, Benjamin Franklin at 60%, and Columbus Elementary at 56.1%.

Just south of Glendale in the Los Angeles Unified School District is Fletcher Drive Elementary where just 40.4% of children have all the required shots meaning more than half of the student population lacks full vaccination. There is an outbreak ready to happen.

If one occurs, those with waivers would be expected to remain home for up to 21 days, the incubation period for measles. This Wednesday nearly 70 non-immunized Palm Desert High School students have been required to stay home for at least two weeks due to an infected teen.

It is a cruel irony that since diseases such as polio and measles have for the most part been eradicated for so long, there exist few eyewitness accounts of people who have had to battle these ailments, leading some to think they are safe.

Maybe the government needs to blast billboards and websites with photos of children afflicted with measles to get people’s attention.

Ultimately, parents who don’t immunize their children exhibit the highest form of selfish behavior. They are taking for granted that the herd immunity of the community will protect their own children.

These militant parents are more than just anti-vaccinators—they are anti-society. As a parent, yes, job number one is protecting your child. But once a parent’s actions go beyond the boundaries of one’s home and will cause harm to other people’s children, the concept of one’s right to do whatever you want no longer applies.

It’s a small world after all.

A Student with a Go After It Attitude

I often encourage my student journalists not to feel fearful or intimidated when selling advertisements or speaking to adults for articles.   However, it remains challenging for many of these young people to assert themselves.   A small minority do have a natural “go after it” attitude. One such person is Melody Shahsavarani.

A senior at Hoover High, I have known Melody for three years, first as an honors English student and now as a budding journalist working for the school newspaper, the Tornado Times. She always has a smile on her face that attracts the listener to whatever topic she is discussing.

During winter break, Melody emailed the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team to see if she could cover one of their games as a sports journalist. After not receiving a reply back, she remembered how welcoming new Clipper owner and Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer was to the fans so she contacted him directly.

Within a couple of days, she was sitting in the back seat of her friend’s car when she noticed an email on her cell phone with the words “high school” in the message line.

“I thought it was an ASB thing,” Melody said since she is a member of the Associated Student Body serving as Senior Class President.

When she opened up the correspondence, she could not believe the opening words “Steve forwarded me your email.”

“I died right there,” Melody said with an excitable cadence.

President of Business Operations Gillian Zucker responded on behalf of Ballmer and was impressed with her spunk and tenacity so much that Melody was indeed invited to cover the Clipper game last week against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. She would be afforded all privileges of the working press, from the media parking lot to attendance at press conferences as well watching the game from the official press box.

Like a dream, Melody found herself sitting in front of head coach Doc Rivers at the pre-game conference and Chris Paul and her idol Blake Griffin at the post-game conference. While she was unable to ask a question due to a prior selection protocol, she still found the event fascinating.

“I couldn’t believe how tall Michael Smith was,” Melody said of the 6’10” Clipper radio and TV color commentator who does the Clipper games alongside legendary play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler. “I stood right at his waist.”

She describes the experience as the biggest thrill of her life, with a clearer understanding of “the adrenaline rush of what it’s like to be a sports journalist.”

What these students may not realize is how much more excited I am for their accomplishments.   Few things bring more pleasure to teachers than when students have breakthrough moments.

Hopefully Melody will continue pursuing other endeavors with the same zeal as she did with covering the Clipper game. Her only regret was not being able to take a photo of herself with Griffin.

“They told me that as a reporter I had to be neutral,” Melody said even though she wore her Clipper sweatshirt to the game.

“Honestly, I almost died when Blake Griffin looked at me courtside when he was practicing before the game.”   In fact, she requested that I change her last name to Shahsavarani-Griffin, but that would be inaccurate (at least as of press time).