Opinion: Truth or consequences

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Anti-Vaxxers. That’s what they call themselves. They are mostly parents who for one reason or another refuse to have their children vaccinated for any number of childhood diseases or annual flu shots. Sometimes it is based on religious grounds and sometimes it is from fear that a vaccination can cause harm or that a child’s immune system may be compromised by avoiding these diseases and the antibodies that result.

This issue has been brought into sharp focus by the outbreak of the highly contagious measles infection in New York and other cities which had virtually been eradicated two decades ago due to the vaccination protocol.

Obviously all parents want what is best for their children. But to deny the availability and effectiveness of modern medicine does not seem a wise choice. And when children are not vaccinated, or adults opt not to get flu shots, it puts the public health at much greater risk.

Influenza kills thousands of Americans each year. Measles, chicken pox and mumps can also cause permanent damage to a young child in severe cases, and even death.

The instances of serious or allergic reactions to vaccinations is infinitesimal compared with serious impacts of the disease for those who contract it.

Statistics don’t lie, but in the age of Trump when science and objective facts are dismissed as “fake” at the highest levels of government with no evidence to the contrary, that emboldens the anti-vaxxers and others.

I surely do not begrudge anyone their religious convictions. But one of the benefits of living in the 21st century is that medical research has found treatments that prevent, treat or even cure illnesses which years ago would have been a death sentence.

When I was growing up in Stuyvesant Town during the 1950s, it was not uncommon to see children on crutches from the crippling polio epidemic. In 1952, a record 57,628 cases of polio, mostly among adolescents, were reported in the United States alone. And millions more throughout the world.

After the development of the vaccine pioneered by Dr. Jonas Salk, by 1957 that amount dropped 90 percent in this country. And at the end of the 1970s it was eliminated… because all children were vaccinated.

The facts are indisputable: vaccinations overwhelmingly save lives, health costs and suffering for families.

I know that some may choose to hold their own different views and ignore the truth of proven science, and that is their right. But as the saying goes people are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.

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