Corrected: Meningitis, Whooping Cough Cases Show Schools, Colleges Should Mandate Vaccines: Guest Commentary

By Bitonte, Robert | Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), January 14, 2015 | Go to article overview

Corrected: Meningitis, Whooping Cough Cases Show Schools, Colleges Should Mandate Vaccines: Guest Commentary


Bitonte, Robert, Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)


Recent meningitis deaths on college campuses in California and the worst whooping-cough outbreak in generations serve as grave reminders of the omnipresent threat of vaccine-preventable diseases. Despite recent progress at curbing vaccine exemptions and increasing statewide vaccination rates for kindergartners, there is still more work to be done to ensure that preventable deaths are prevented.

Vaccines have been among the most successful tools in preventing the spread of infectious disease in California and around the world. No other treatment is as effective in protecting both individual Californians and the population at large from illnesses that were once catastrophic.

For vaccines to be truly successful at preventing outbreaks of disease, however, they must be used by a significant enough portion of the population. When a critical number of people are immunized, "herd immunity" is achieved and individuals in the community who cannot receive the vaccine - infants, seniors, people with certain medical conditions or pregnant women - also become protected.

This means that when members of a community choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children, they are not just making a personal choice - they are weakening the immunity of the entire community. Therefore, a parent who does not vaccinate their child puts not only the health of their child but also the health of the neighbor's child in jeopardy.

For example, health experts agree that years of increasing exemptions and declining vaccination rates set the stage in California for the current whooping cough outbreak. According to the California Department of Public Health, California has also seen outbreaks of measles and mumps in recent years, illnesses thought to be eradicated or under control.

At the same time, increased incidences of meningococcal meningitis have come with tragic consequences, including a death on the UC San Diego campus. Four students from UC Santa Barbara tested positive, and one had to have both of his feet amputated as a result of the disease. …

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