A Matter of Public Health

I shared this information, in abbreviated form, at last night’s Council meeting. While it doesn’t directly involve City business, it does involve the public health of San Carlos.

The recent measles outbreak in Disneyland vividly demonstrates what can happen when we collectively fail to take advantage of vaccination technology. Getting the measles is at the very least a miserable experience — I’m old enough to have had to go through that personally, because the vaccine wasn’t available when I was a child — and can be life-threatening if you’re very young or an adult, particularly an older adult, or someone for whom vaccination did not “take”. It’s an insanely contagious virus, easily transmitted from person to person. Because it can survive in the air for hours, even passing through a room in which an infected person has sneezed or coughed can lead to illness.

The Disneyland event also shows that this is not a third-world problem. It can happen even in the country having the best medical technology in the world, albeit one which struggles to figure out how to make good medical service available to all its residents. Trained as a molecular biologist, I know that viruses don’t give a damn about politics, philosophies or personal beliefs; they’re too simple for any of that. They live merely to grow and prosper, unfortunately in many cases at our expense.

The risk of getting infected isn’t confined to places like Disneyland. It can happen at home, too. I was saddened to see that, even in San Carlos, 14% of recent kindergartners were not up to date on their vaccinations. 8% had not had the MMR vaccine — measles, mumps and rubella — which would protect them from measles. 10% lack protection against polio, which, while it is close to being eradicated, is so incredibly dangerous it was the target of a high profile, global, multi-generation effort to combat it.

These numbers give me pause as a parent. My kids are adults — vaccinated adults, vaccinated against every disease for which there is a vaccine because I was not about to lose them to some stupid mindless organism, or risk them undergoing the pain and suffering of preventable illnesses — but they would have concerned me when they were younger and interacting with large numbers of other kids on a regular basis. Vaccines don’t always work, and there’s no simple way to tell if they have.

I hope that the Disneyland event causes all parents to make sure their kids are fully vaccinated. Adults, too. If you have reason to believe you’re not protected, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated.

Let’s not abandon the patient work of centuries spent learning how to combat these scourges.

Further reading:

http://www.vox.com/2015/1/23/7877321/measles-outbreak-scary-disneyland

http://www.vox.com/2015/1/26/7907707/measles-symptoms-vaccine

https://californiakindegartenvaccinations.silk.co/ (this is the source of statistics on San Carlos vaccination rates)

1 thought on “A Matter of Public Health”

  1. Katie Stamos

    Thank you for speaking out about this. My children attend a public school in San Carlos where 10% of the incoming kindergarten class is not vaccinated. It’s truly scary to think of how our herd immunity is compromised by this. I really respect that you are speaking out about this!

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