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LETTERS

Vaccine holdouts, do you remember when the pandemic was a thing? Well, it’s still a thing

A nurse prepares to administer medication to a patient inside the COVID-19 ward at a medical center in Vancouver, Wash.
A nurse prepares to administer medication to a patient inside the COVID-19 ward at a medical center in Vancouver, Wash.Nathan Howard/Bloomberg

The kids with medical exemptions are the ones we need to protect

I was impressed by the July 19 editorial, “After COVID-19, Beacon Hill should tighten state’s vaccine laws.” What is critical is to protect the health of those children who have a medical exemption to receiving vaccines. These are mostly children whose immune system is greatly diminished because of being born with a compromised condition or because of certain illnesses and the medical treatment for these illnesses. Childhood leukemia is a good example. These children should not get certain vaccines, such as against measles.

There may be a few thousand children in Massachusetts who have received a medical exemption like this in our schools. As you pointed out in the editorial, more than three times as many children have not received vaccines because of a religious exemption.

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Now, imagine you are a parent of a child with leukemia. Also imagine a measles outbreak in your community and in your school. Measles is highly contagious. If your child, who is immunocompromised, is exposed to measles, there is a 70 percent likelihood of death. In healthy students, when exposed to measles, the chance of developing encephalitis (infection of the brain) is 1 in 1,000 and the chance of death is about 2 in 1,000.

There were big outbreaks of measles in California and in New York City in non-vaccinated communities. If your child died or were intellectually compromised because of contracting measles from a school classmate whose parent refused to have the child vaccinated because of a religious exemption, how would you feel?

Dr. Benjamin Siegel

Boston

The writer is a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and a retired pediatrician at Boston Medical Center.


Religion can’t be used as an excuse to flout public safety

Your editorial calling for an end to religious exemptions to vaccination was spot-on. Vaccines are a public safety issue, just like traffic laws. A religious exemption for stop signs would kill people.

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Herd immunity stops a disease from spreading widely throughout a population. It doesn’t mean nobody dies. If you are one of the few people who didn’t develop immunity after vaccination, or who couldn’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, and you encounter someone with that disease, you could die.

With traffic laws, if you insist on risking others’ lives, you can’t drive. With vaccines, if you want to risk others’ lives by sending unvaccinated children to public schools with a religious exemption, you shouldn’t be permitted to.

Scott Romanowski

Billerica


There should be no religious exemptions for vaccines

Many thanks to the editorial board for supporting legislation that would eliminate something that shouldn’t exist in the first place: religious exemptions for legally mandated vaccines.

Simply put, there’s no religion that says people shouldn’t be vaccinated. If anything, religious tenets lead us to the conclusion that anyone who is able to should get vaccinated as a way of caring for others and the well-being of our communities.

Getting vaccinated is a great way of showing how we can both love our neighbors and ourselves. Let’s join Connecticut, Maine, and New York, and blow away the smoke screen of using religion as a false excuse not to get kids vaccinated.

Cindy Rowe

Executive director

Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action

Boston


It’s shocking to see people so fabulously ignorant

As someone who spent a career in medical sciences and education, I cannot believe that we as a society still allow for refusing vaccinations on religious grounds. There is so much evidence to show how successful vaccines are, based on science, which operates on knowledge, facts, and proof. Without science, human beings would be dying from disease at unimaginable rates. There’s a reason people were terrified of tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, and the like. I won’t even mention the so-called childhood diseases and their toll on young children.

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We live in the 21st century, and it is shocking and disheartening to see how many people are fabulously ignorant when it comes to science. We possess amazing technology in medicine, yet people balk at vaccinations, and the primary reasons involve religion and politics. Both of these thrive on the absence of science, and they further ignorance at the expense of societies everywhere.

These simple medical procedures save untold lives and protect the rest of society, especially those for whom vaccinations are not feasible. This is how responsible societies operate, and it is time for these vaccinations to become mandatory, based on factual evidence and not the unprovable assertions of religion and the whims of benighted politicians. It is time to wake up to the fact that ignorance can be dangerous, indeed fatal, when clear evidence points to the importance of disease prevention.

Protect yourself, and others, by getting vaccinated: Aren’t more than 610,000 American deaths from COVID-19 proof enough?

Robert LaFrance

Canton


70 years ago, I saw the polio-stricken kids from my ward in a children’s hospital

Some 70 years ago, when I was 10 or 11 years old, I suffered from sinusitis. It was severe enough that I was in hospital for a few weeks in the winter at the Bristol Children’s Hospital in Britain. All I remember about the treatment was that at night, they bundled us up warmly and trundled our hospital beds onto an open balcony so that we could get fresh air while we slept.

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During the day we were free to sit in bed, walk around our ward, and venture a little into nearby wards as long as they were not filled with infectious children. Our ward was adjacent to the polio ward. Several kids were usually swinging around on their crutches, making good time going from friend to friend. They were the lucky ones. Others, sicker, were propped up in their beds, reading or listening to headphones. The sickest were cocooned in their iron lungs that wheezed while squeezing air into these critically ill kids to help them stay alive.

The kids on crutches were awed that I could walk around without any help. Within 10 years, polio vaccinations eliminated this devastating disease from our lives.

Right now, the COVID-19 vaccines are keeping this disease from further ravaging our society. They will do so only if all of us who can get vaccinated do get vaccinated. Any adverse reactions to the vaccine are minuscule compared with the suffering that one might experience if COVID-19 struck.

I will never forget how as a child, I saw polio-stricken youngsters my age facing a life on crutches or in iron lungs, just as COVID-19 sufferers on ventilators are immobilized. That haunting memory made me set aside vaccination hesitation.

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Martin G. Evans

Cambridge


It’s time for Biden to issue a vaccine mandate

All of us should know the gravity of the situation with this Delta variant. The federal government does not seem to know how to act save for pleading with Americans to get vaccinated. To offer a historical parallel, President James Buchanan asserted that Southern states did not have the right to secede from the Union but that he could not prevent them from doing so. I realize that our current president has had to be cautious in his advocacy for getting vaccinated against COVID-19, yet in light of the inane opposition, the government needs to mandate it. National health is national security, and our security is at risk. The list of exemptions needs to be curtailed, and those refusing should be examined medically. It is too easy to claim exemption.

We need more wisdom in this nation and empathy toward our fellow Americans.

James Weiss

Salem