Dad Demands Every Kid in His Son's School Get Vaccinated ... Or Else

vaccineAt last count, over 100 people have caught the measles after a day in Disneyland. Now, the Bay Area father of an immune compromised 6-year-old in remission from leukemia is posing the controversial request that his district superintendent make it mandatory for all children attending his son’s school to be vaccinated. At present, the parents of 7 percent of children attending Reed Elementary have opted to invoke personal belief as a reason to not receive the mandated immunizations. 

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After wincing in sympathy for parents who’ve been dealing with their child’s cancer diagnosis for over four years now, I couldn't help but think of my oldest son, and his peanut allergy, for which he’s been prescribed an epi-pen.

I have always made it clear to my son that his condition is his responsibility -- no one else’s. It’s his job to be vigilant and, if he spies someone with a peanut-based product (my son can usually smell one rooms away, when his throat, tongue, and lips instantly become itchy), he should be the one to withdraw rather than asking (or, worse, demanding) the other person to make an accommodation for him.

Granted, one can’t smell the measles, and a compromised immune system won’t be fixed with a shot of epinephrine. But I’m still not certain that the rights of one sick child automatically overrule those of other children and their families.

At the moment, there are no known measles cases at Reed Elementary. Perhaps a logical compromise could be to place the vulnerable boy in a class made up exclusively of students who have been vaccinated (which is still the majority). For all-grade events, like recess or field trips, he might be the one isolated, for his own protection.

Of course, this does beg the question: when your child is immuno-compromised, do you take them to other public places? Grocery stores? Movie theaters? Buses? Across the street? Do you expect to be able to compel everyone your sick kid comes into contact with to be vaccinated?

And while measles are the biggest threat, isn’t a child with a weakened immune system equally at risk for any virus or bacteria, from the common cold to influenza? Can concerned parents then request to make everyone in their class get flu shots as well? Just how far is too far to expect other people to go for you?

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In a perfect world, everyone would be able to exist in conditions that are ideal for them -- be it vaccinations, a peanut-free environment, or the absence of asthma-triggering dust mites or pollen in the air (my son is allergic to those, too). But in this world, people with conflicting needs and requirements are forced to share space. As parents, the onus is on us to protect our children, without preventing others from doing the same (whether or not we agree with them; me, personally, I say give my kid any shot you’ve got, and make it a double for good measure).

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If I were a parent who believed that my child were truly in danger from attending a particular school, I would either keep them home until they'd fully recovered, transfer them to a different school, or move to a different district altogether, one that does not allow non-vaccinated students, period. (Odds are, if it’s a private school, the original district that refused to make the accommodation would even be forced by law to pay for it.)

In other words, I might ask for an exemption. But if it turned out that was out of the question, I’d take the situation into my own hands. I wouldn’t wait for others to fix my problem (voluntarily or by force). I’d take steps to fix it myself. Because, in the end, it’s my child.

What would you do if you were this kid's dad?

 

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