Unvaccinated students in Sacramento

Jeff vonKaenel

There are increasing numbers of California kindergartners whose parents have filed “personal beliefs” exemptions, allowing them to avoid state-required immunizations. In the 2011-12 school year, 70 percent of Camellia Waldorf School parents filed for these exemptions. In a column two weeks ago (see “Children at risk,” SN&R Greenlight, January 17), I asked these parents a simple question: “Are you out of your goddamned minds?”

In response to my column, I heard from Shana Murray, the administrator at Camellia Waldorf School. She wrote:

“I am not sure where you are pulling these figures from, but they are inaccurate. I have attached the report that we have filed with the California Department of Public Health, and as you can see, they do not support your claim. 14 of the 32 (44%) … students currently have signed exemptions. In addition, I have attached the copy of our 7th Grade Tdap report, which as you can see puts us at 100% compliant. Having said that, we support our parent’s right to choose, whether that be in their choice of education, or their legal right to determine health options for their children. … I would appreciate you printing a retraction of your facts, in the same bold manner you have previously stated the misinformation.”

Normally, we would run a clarification, explaining that the figure we had cited was for the 2011-12 school year. The current year’s figure, not yet posted on the Department of Public Health website, is 44 percent. But Murray asked for a “retraction of your facts, in the same bold manner you have previously stated the misinformation.”

Therefore, first, let me say that I am not against private or charter schools. About 20 years ago, my wife and I toured the Camellia Waldorf School and considered having our son attend.

And secondly, while I am delighted that a higher percentage of this year’s Camellia Waldorf kindergarten parents have had their kids immunized, this does not change the basic fact that the school is still a potential public-health disaster.

Case in point: Desert Marigold School, a charter school in Phoenix, where there were at least eight cases of whooping cough last year. According to the Arizona Daily Star, “less than 30 percent of its kindergarteners” were immunized in the 2010-11 school year.

These unvaccinated children are perfect re-entry vehicles for serious diseases such as whooping cough. California had more cases of whooping cough in 2010 than any other year in the previous 60 years.

The decision not to vaccinate not only endangers unvaccinated children, but it also endangers others in the community, particularly babies too young to be vaccinated. California should join the other 31 states without personal-beliefs exemptions. We are out of our minds if we allow whooping cough, measles and tuberculosis to make a comeback.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.