2015-09-10 / Views

Leelanau’s dangerous immunization record

our opinion

The role of individualism has always played an important part in America and its dream of “getting ahead.” But so has collectivism, especially during times of national tragedy and war.

The concepts are headed toward a trainwreck when it comes to immunization of students, especially in Leelanau.

The county has one of the highest “opt-out” rates for immunization of students in the state — and it’s not like Michigan has set a sterling example, either. Michiganders have compiled the fourth-worst mark in the country when it comes to getting their students immunized.

So why are parents in droves preferring to risk having their children contract a communicable disease such as the measles or whooping cough rather than be immunized?

Part of it has to do with persistent but unsubstantiated beliefs that common shots given to young people can cause more health problems than they solve. In particular, a 1998 study linking vaccine to autism was widely distributed before being labeled a fraud and its author stripped of his license to practice medicine in Britain.

But part of parents reluctance to have children immunized can be linked to the rise in individualism in society. The “selfie” photo is perhaps the most prevalent symbol today.

There was a time that parents would have followed the stronger argument that protection of their relatives, friends and neighbors — indeed, their country — is preferred through immunization over any minuscule threat to an individual’s health.

More and more today, no threat to the community is worth the perceived danger of with being immunized.

Today in Michigan between 5 percent and 6 percent of kindergartners skipped vaccination for religious or philosophical reasons, which they are allowed to do by state law. The number is higher in Leelanau County — and much higher in some schools.

For instance, some 33 percent of Leelanau Montessori students have received vaccine waivers, which leaves the student body at risk of having a disease such as the measles or the whooping cough run rampant. That figure comes from the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department.

Within the same building complex, only 4 percent of Suttons Bay Public School students received vaccination waivers, which is pretty good. Northport has the best record, as all of its students have been immunized.

The rate for waivers is 18 percent in Glen Lake Elementary, and 10.5 percent at Leland Public School. Those are not good.

It’s bad enough that parents who opt out of vaccination put their own children’s lives at risk. But their decisions can hurt others, too. Some people cannot be vaccinated due to having depressed immune systems, children are vulnerable during their first year of life while vaccinations take hold and vaccinations provides only limited protection on some individuals.

We understand and respect that a very few people may be allergic to vaccinations, but the number of parents opting to have their children not vaccinated goes much further.

Leelanau is close to or No. 1 among Michigan counties in a number of areas that give us pride. Our county’s beauty and agricultural products come to mind.

But our paltry record for immunization is bothersome — and in many respects dangerous. We’re fine with the selfies. What’s needed are more immunization shots.

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