A doctor friend once told me that it's false to claim there are two sides to every story.

There isn't a second side to whether Earth is round, for instance, nor, he insists, is there a second side to whether it's safe and sound to vaccinate kids for diseases like the measles and mumps.

"The argument is over," he added. "Just like science proved the world isn't flat, it has proved that vaccines not only protect your kids, but all other kids as well."

Sadly, there has been a growing resistance to vaccinations in recent years. Spurred on by blatantly false internet postings, more parents are refusing vaccinations for their children and claim they have the right to protect their kids from unwelcome "invasions" of their bodies.

These "anti-vax" parents have either fallen for a false claim that vaccines cause autism (a claim that's been thoroughly discredited in numerous studies) or have decided that the medical profession can't be trusted. For some, I'm afraid, it's just a fashionable thing to do.

In other words, they're gambling with the health of not only their own children, but the children of others.

This phenomenon is already producing predictable results. Only 20 years ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that measles had been eliminated as a major public health threat in the U.S. Today, the same government agency is expressing alarm that the country may soon be facing an emergency.

During the first month of 2019 there were 79 cases of measles, 50 of them in the state of Washington, where parents have more leeway to refuse vaccinations. And about 78 percent of children are vaccinated in the Portland, Oregon, area, while the CDC considers a 93 percent vaccination rate necessary to prevent an outbreak.

In Arizona, one legislator is pushing a bill to declare that all Arizonans have the right to refuse vaccinations and the kids can't be barred from attending a public school, where hundreds of kids could be exposed.

Those who consider the vaccines "dangerous" ought to do some research on just how serious measles, mumps, chicken pox, and other childhood diseases could be 50 or more years ago before vaccines were invented. Some kids experienced brain swelling, pneumonia or other side effects. And, yes, some died.

Those of us who grew up in the '50s will never forget the relief we and our parents experienced when Jonas Salk discovered a vaccine to prevent polio, a disease that had been killing and crippling classmates for years. In less than a couple of years, the vaccine allowed kids to go out in crowds again, something that protective parents forbade.

Today, polio has essentially been eliminated as a health threat. The vaccine would have probably swept polio off the face of Earth if not for some areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where some believe the vaccines are nothing more than clever tricks by countries like the U.S. to take over their people.

The irony of the trend to refuse vaccination is that most of the parents doing so never had to experience the pain and suffering of measles, mumps, whooping cough, pox and other illnesses that periodically swept through schools decades before.

What's worse is that they're willfully putting other innocent kids at risk to make what is nothing more than a ridiculous and ignorant point.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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