My student is missing

Just one of my students. I heard that he didn’t come to school today because he’s not up on all of his vaccinations. I don’t know if that is something intentional by his family, but I kinda doubt it — he’s in high school, which means he’s had years of previous vaccinations accounted for. Probably people got busy and forgot to take him in to the doctor or the county clinic to get whatever’s due at his age.

Like other school districts in the state, this one requires that the students be fully vaccinated per the list issued by the state health department. There’s a 60-day period after the beginning of the school year for students to get caught up, and after that date, students don’t get to attend until they’ve done so. (There is also an exception clause allowed by the state, requiring that abstaining parents or guardians to provide a medical exemption signed by a MD/DO every year, and they sign a religious exemption. Note that the doctor has to be an actual physician, and that the child is getting regular medical attention, to help insure some baseline of health monitoring. Note also that the parent also has to claim exemption for religious reasons, not just because they think that vaccines might be more dangerous than the long list of highly infectious and sometimes debilitating or deadly diseases.)

So naturally, my children have had their various vaccinations over the years. In recent years I’ve also had the MMR, at the tender age of 45. Why? Because a bunch of fools in the UK and the US haven’t vaccinated, thus allowing mumps and measles epidemics to happen. I’m old enough to not have had the MMR because it didn’t exist when I was a tot, nor did I get the Mumps naturally. Because I work in several secondary schools and a college, I’m very much exposed to large populations of potentially infectious students. (I’ve also recently finished the HepB series, and also get my tetanus booster every decade, and the annual flu shot.)

Keeping the general population free of these preventable diseases is important not just at the individual level, but also to help prevent the transmission. This is important to help maintain “herd immunity”, because there are those few ultra-devout religious people who abstain from vaccinations, because there are a few people with severely compromised immune systems who cannot receive vaccinations, and also because no vaccine is 100% effective (there are a few recipients who don’t retain antibodies). Generally, if 85% of the population has been vaccinated for a particular disease, then there’s enough resistance in the general population to create the necessary “firebreak” and prevent these highly contagious diseases from being spread.

Those epidemics didn’t have to happen. People did not have to die. Yes, DIE. Because mumps and measles are not harmless childhood diseases, mere spotty versions of the common cold. A lot of those diseases that we vaccinate to prevent killed or disabled people. But due to the foolish MMR scare, vaccination rates dropped, with only 50% of the children in some parts of the UK. As a result, there were epidemics of measles and mumps in the UK, and a subsequent epidemic of mumps in the US.

Unfortunately, people forget how severe such diseases can be: The real victims of Britain’s MMR scare

“These children are the other side of the coin,” said MacMahon. “People need to realise that if their children are not vaccinated and they get measles, they might not only be sick and miserable. They can get pneumonia, they can get encephalitis and they can die.”

Two boys, who could not get the MMR vaccine because they had received organ transplants, became disabled due to measles:

Although both children survived, they have been left with lasting damage.

Joe, who was discharged from hospital at the end of August, is unlikely to regain the full use of his left leg and has partial paralysis of his tongue and throat.

Matthew, who was not discharged from hospital until December 21, is more severely disabled. His optic nerves were permanently scarred by the virus and he is now registered blind.

He is also virtually confined to a wheelchair and has had to drop out of his mainstream school. Karen said: “Before he had measles, he could go out, he could play football, he could do what he wanted.

Measles can also kill:

Naomi Pop, just 14 months old, was among the victims. Her mother, Maria, 20, was not unduly worried when Naomi contracted measles just four weeks before she was due to have the triple jab. She said: “I thought to myself, ‘Measles, so what?’ I mean, how bad could that be?”

Within a few days Naomi had developed acute pneumonia. It took a year for her to die. She suffered several infections and progressive brain damage and finally died on March 14, 2001.

Measles, Mumps and Rubella should be as extinct as Smallpox. I would love to have to explain to young people what these diseases were, just as I do my Smallpox vaccination scar. Hopefully my missing student will be back in class tomorrow or the next day.

AN UPDATE to this post.


  1. 18 February 2008 at 20:23

    […] had recent epidemics of mumps and measles in the UK and the US, leading to hundreds of sick people, and some who were disabled or killed. Because I work with students in various schools, I get lots of exposure to viruses. I had not […]

  2. 29 December 2007 at 0:10

    […] the recent outbreaks of measles and mumps, and the resulting disabilities and deaths as described in this previous post.  Oh sure, we’re all intelligent, well-educated peoples.  No one does horrible things here […]

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