Vaccinations are crucial to the Berkeley community’s health

CITY AFFAIRS: Residents who opt out of vaccinations are endangering themselves and their community

A girl receiving a vaccine with a line of people
Emily Bi/Senior Staff

When someone doesn’t get vaccinated or chooses not to vaccinate their children, they put themselves and their communities at risk. Some residents of the city of Berkeley are still opting out of life-saving vaccinations for themselves and their families — and this is simply unacceptable.

A case of measles has been confirmed in Berkeley, and anyone who visited the Berkeley Bowl on Oregon Street on May 7 from 3-5 p.m. has been advised to look for the first stages of symptoms. While this is only one case of the contagious disease, there are other indications that Berkeley residents aren’t getting vaccinated.

The Berkeley Rose Waldorf School, a local charter school, has a 29 percent vaccination rate for measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, according to the 2017-18 report on the immunization status of kindergarten students on the California Department of Public Health website. This means that in 2018, a vast majority of the children at this school had not been vaccinated against a disease that can have serious long-term effects or even cause death.

Children are among the most vulnerable when it comes to vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and are also the least able to protect themselves against these illnesses. Vaccines, almost unanimously supported by medical communities across the world, could mean the difference between life and death.

And vaccinations are readily available, including to individuals who might not otherwise have access. Vaccinations are provided by the city of Berkeley’s Public Health Division for a $26 fee to adults who do not have health insurance or whose health insurance does not cover vaccinations. These services are also provided for children who are eligible for Medi-Cal or the Child Health Disability Prevention program or are not insured, and children will not be denied a vaccination because of an inability to pay. Other clinics in the area offer free vaccinations for adults who cannot afford the fee.

UC Berkeley’s Tang Center also offers vaccinations to the campus community — in fact, certain vaccinations, including the MMR vaccine, are mandated by the UC Office of the President before students can begin their first semesters on campus. Similar requirements will go into effect for Berkeley public schools beginning July 1, 2019, and children who are not vaccinated will be excluded from school regardless of personal objections from parents.

With the extensive framework supporting the process of immunizations, there is no reason for individuals not to take measures against these preventable diseases. Yet the reality persists that this year, the United States has seen the highest number of measles infections in the past quarter century — despite the disease being declared eliminated from the country by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2000.

The city should continue to publicize the immunization programs available and should encourage residents to vaccinate themselves and their children. And individuals must hold themselves accountable and take the initiative to immunize themselves and their children. The Berkeley community’s health depends on it.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.