Amid Controversy, Stratford Stands Strong – Vaccinate

A recent measles outbreak in the United States has renewed discussion regarding vaccinating children against preventable childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella. The outbreak, according to a February 20, 2015 article, spread across 17 states and infected more than 150 people, from late December 2014 through February 20 of this year.

Public health officials in the United States thought they had the measles, an acute contagious viral disease, licked. However, a 1988 research paper authored by British doctor Andrew Wakefield, linking autism to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, resulted in some parents questioning the MMR and other vaccines and choosing not to vaccinate their children.

Since 1988, Wakefield’s findings have not been duplicated by other professionals, and the study was retracted by its publisher. Wakefield was stripped of his license in 2010, according to the article. However, some parents, fearful of autism, have chosen not to vaccinate their children. The resulting non-vaccinated population has allowed measles to rear its head again in the U.S.

“There is no real controversy from the scientific viewpoint,” Mr. Luke Harrington, Science Department Chair, stated.

Harrington explained that this movement (against immunization) is comprised of a small, extremely vocal group causing deadly consequences. In 2000, measles was considered eradicated, however, this is no longer true due to the declining number of measles vaccinations.

The autism link was again disproved by the Journal of the American Medical Association in their publication on April 21, 2015, stating that “[there is] no link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism spectrum disorders (ASD).”

Harrington later added that it is “infuriating to see parents still not choosing to vaccinate because it is not just a personal risk, but it puts other children at risk.”

How would Stratford Academy react if measles reached central Georgia? Stratford is most likely a safe zone due to state regulation.  “We have to abide by Georgia law. Children who attend school or a child care facility must be protected from certain diseases,” Mrs. Marilyn Walker, Registrar, told the Gazebo recently in an interview.

Stratford is required, annually, to gather every student’s medical information which includes immunization records. This data is compiled and submitted to the Bibb County Health Department for inspection.

Only under two circumstances are students permitted to waive certain vaccinations, either through a religious conflict or through medical issues which would arise from the vaccination, according to the State of Georgia Department of Public Health Immunization Guidelines for Schools and Childcare Facilities.

If a vaccination poses a medical issue to a student, the student’s family must complete required documentation in order to be granted immunity. The same goes for those students with religious conflicts.

However, if a Stratford parent of a vaccinated student was to complain to the administration, a letter of the Georgia law regarding the matter would be sent to the family of the non-vaccinated student. If the non-vaccinated family does not comply within thirty days, the student would be sent home and would not be permitted to attend school. Stratford’s Head of School, Dr. Robert Veto, would have to explain the circumstances and outline Georgia’s law to the family.

If an instance of a disease, such as measles, were to occur, the principals of each division of the school would be notified immediately, according to Walker. Subsequently, all parents with children in the affected child’s grade level, or any other grades the student had contact with, would receive an email describing the situation and warning parents.

In response to this situation, Stratford freshman Sarah Koplin said, “I know it seems really frightening, but I know that the school would be able to control it. I just hope they have all their information together.”