Monday, October 18, 2021

The measles outbreak needs parents to get their kids vaccinated

I was about 10 years old, and got up to see my teacher reading her copy of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. She gave me a note about what to expect. She said there might be characters to identify with, some werewolves to look at and maybe she’d see a scar somewhere.

The sleeve that must have separated my T-shirt and jeans was about an inch-and-a-half wide, I think. I wouldn’t have dared catch a glimpse of myself. I was an adolescent, and I didn’t want to have a scar on my face. Maybe it would scare some boys.

Thankfully, I wasn’t at Waverly Elementary when the first vaccine case in the District came up. The Atlanta Public Schools were struggling with an unusually high number of infected students.

Still, I lived in a bedroom community where we saw measles cases every year. In my family, only my father, a teacher, got the MMR vaccine. I grew up afraid of the measles. The fact that he was immunized and I wasn’t made me the “dean of kids.”

On that day I read the note and laid my head on my mother’s lap for a while. Once she took me outside to play, I rushed to the library where I had heard about this outbreak. The director of pediatrics, Neena Chaudhry, happened to be there.

“The student who has measles is too contagious to do routine physicals,” Dr. Chaudhry said.

Parents are reluctant to get their children vaccinated. But we have to have a “vaccine-caused disease” to get an exemption. If more people were vaccinated, there would be fewer vaccine-preventable outbreaks. But only a fraction of school children are being vaccinated.

I was afraid. The potential for a flubbed vaccination caused my heart to pound. Dr. Chaudhry said I could take the measles shot today. Instead of going to school today, I’d go to a clinic to get it.

“More people will be vaccinated, and fewer people will get measles. There is a bright side to this,” she said.

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