Vaccinate your kids do it for Rhett

This week, 7-year-old Rhett Krawitt of Corte Madera stood before his school board and asked its members to support proposed state legislation that would get rid of personal belief exemptions from childhood vaccinations.

According to a front-page story in the San Francisco Chronicle, Rhett is in remission from leukemia and unable to get vaccinated; the only way he can protect himself from measles is if the children around him are vaccinated, giving him what health officials call herd immunity.

That’s the idea behind early childhood vaccination. And it’s an idea that has produced sound, evidence-based public policy supported both by Jewish teachings and medical opinion, as described in our cover story on page 8.

Rhett’s school board did indeed vote to support any such legislation that comes its way. The vote was symbolic, but also significant, particularly as Marin County has been in the news lately for having one of the lowest childhood vaccination rates in the country.

There was a time, not that long ago, when schoolchildren would line up in the auditorium and white-capped nurses would vaccinate them against a variety of childhood diseases. As vaccines were developed to protect against measles, mumps and rubella, it seemed as if those diseases, too, were a thing of the past.

Of course, that was never so. Measles, which is sometimes fatal, always hovered below the radar in this country, often brought back by unvaccinated people infected while traveling abroad. A recent outbreak stemming from two Disney theme parks in Southern California has contributed to an alarming number of measles cases this year — 121 nationwide, with 14 in the Bay Area.

California is one of several states that permit parents to avoid vaccinating their children on the basis of personal belief. That needs to change. The real danger to public health outweighs the individual’s choice not to vaccinate.

Every major Jewish stream has come out with statements urging parents to vaccinate their children. Medical opinion supports it, as does common sense.

We urge the directors of Jewish schools and camps to make vaccinations mandatory. This does not force parents to vaccinate their children. But it’s telling them that if they don’t, their children cannot enter your doors.