By Lilly Fox
A recent measles outbreak tracing back to Disneyland in California is spreading concern about the disease across the nation. From Jan. 1 to Feb. 11, 125 people from 17 states and Washington, D.C. were reported to have measles. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of the California patients were un- vaccinated, bringing the controversy over vaccination to the forefront.
According to the CDC, measles were deemed eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. Al- though both the CDC and the American Association of Pediatrics urge parents to vaccinate their children, a number of parents participate in the anti-vaccination movement, which claims it is a parental right to make health decisions for one’s children, according to nvic.org.
Senior Leah Iosif, who is planning to pursue a career in medicine, said, “Measles can be a potentially life-threatening disease, and not vaccinating children not only puts their lives at risk, but also the community at whole.”
Currently, New Jersey vaccine exemptions can be either religious or medical. According to the New Jersey Department of Health, a written statement referring to religion legally grants exemptions to mandatory immunizations. Furthermore, legislation has been introduced in New Jersey that would require the addition of a “philosophical or conscientious belief exemption,” according to nvic.org. This new exemption, which is already in effect in 18 states, would allow for an exemption under the premise of “a strongly held belief,” according to vaccineethics.org.
According to the NJDOH, there are nine different vaccinations that fulfill the mini- mum required number of vaccine doses children must have in order to attend a New Jersey school. These immunizations are timelined to be received at different ages.
According to School Nurse Margaret Teitelbaum, WHS follows these guidelines and reacts accordingly in the case of a CDC alert.
Teitelbaum explained that people can work with health professionals to prevent future outbreaks. She said: “There’s no reason why in this country we need to see [preventable diseases] come back.... We prevented it; we stopped it by use of vaccines, so now you do not need to suffer.”
The Westfield Regional Health Department has made efforts to ensure immunization opportunities for residents, according toestfieldnj.gov. Non-insured and underinsured children up to age 18 who live in Westfield or neighboring towns can visit the bi-monthly Westfield Child Health Clinic for immunizations. Free vaccinations are also available to adult residents of these towns, according to the Westfield Regional Health Department’s website.