The anti-vaccination movement has gained a lot of national attention in the past few years. Unlike many private organizations, however, the practices of this group have the potential of seriously harming its community. The deliberate choice to not vaccinate your children, regardless of the reasoning behind it, means that the child and all those who come in contact with him are theoretically in danger of contracting a life-threatening illness. Recent data collection showed that an alarmingly low percentage of children in New York City schools had received vaccinations: 245 New York City private schools fell short of the necessary 95 percent vaccination rate.
Of these schools, 125 had rates below 90 percent, and 37 had rates below 70 percent. In the nine lowest rated schools for immunizations, there were between 41.5 percent and 18.9 percent of children who had received immunization.
Earlier this year, New York City saw a rare outbreak of the measles. The first case was reported in February, and the outbreak lasted well into March, with 20 confirmed cases, but as many as 600 patients were exposed to the airborne virus, The New York Times reported. The illness is thought to have spread so quickly because of medical workers’ delayed diagnosis. Unable to recognize the symptoms as the measles, the workers did not quarantine the patients before they could further spread the virus.
It’s not surprising that medical workers had trouble identifying the measles. The illness was eliminated in the United States in 2000. It has come back though with severe force. Experts believe that the anti-vaccination movement is largely to blame for the resurgence of the once-eradicated illness. The rate of vaccination in New York City private schools has continued to drop. Last year the overall immunization rate was 97 percent. Those most at risk are children and those with vulnerable immune systems in contact with these unvaccinated school children.
“It could have life-threatening implications and can spread from within that context of a low rate into the larger community,” Roberto Posada, a Mount Sinai pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases, commented to New York magazine. Last year the second-largest case of measles in 20 years was seen in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. There were 58 cases; however the outbreak was subdued due to a combined effort by rabbis and schools to vaccinate people.
New York State has particularly strict laws surrounding immunization. According to one vaccination liberation group, “New York is probably the most difficult state in the US in which to exercise your right to determine what goes into your bodies and your children’s bodies.” The only two ways to receive an exemption to immunization for your children in New York State is to claim either religious or medical reasoning.
Parents that choose to follow this route usually send their children to anti-vaccine friendly schools. New York’s Waldorf schools are one of the most popular. These schools were founded on Rudolf Steiner's beliefs, which centered on vaccines' harm to an individual’s spirituality and soul. Although New York respects the beliefs of the parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, it is a dangerous trend that continues to grow.