Lack of vaccinations in MCPS raises issues of student health
October 14, 2019
Eight hundred thirty four MCPS students between grades 7 and 12 had not gotten the necessary vaccinations to return to school as of Sept. 10th. Sept. 23rd was the final deadline for these vaccinations and those who have not provided proof of vaccinations by that time will be, according to Montgomery Community Media, “excluded from school until documentation is received.” These mandatory vaccinations include Tdap and MCV4.
“It’s really for the health of the students to get the Tdap and prevent pertussis, which is whooping cough, and get the MCV, which prevents a serious brain infection – meningitis,” said nurse Julie Olson. “If you don’t give someone a final deadline, they’ll procrastinate and procrastinate.”
Various students also support the deadline. “I think it’s a thing where we have to look at the good of the whole, and while there’s the argument of personal freedoms, it’s also important for us to have to have good public health. It’s very important that we – the students of Montgomery County – have safety in our schools and are safe from disease,” said sophomore Uma Fox.
MCPS provides free mandatory vaccinations for students, and created several occasions for students to be vaccinated, including a last-minute vaccination night on Sept. 22 in several middle schools, including Julius West. “The vaccine for children is free through the federal government,” Ms. Olson said. “There were numerous opportunities to get the vaccine.”
However, not everyone was enthusiastic about the government-funded vaccinations. “I’m cool with [vaccines], as long as it ain’t government funded,” said sophomore Jay Savukinas, who expressed qualms about using taxes paid by well-off families to vaccinate low-income individuals.
Maryland, however, allows for a religious exemption, where religious reasons prevent students from being vaccinated. Students and staff are concerned about the effects of this exemption. “At this point, I have to accept it, it’s the law,” said Ms. Olson.
“It’s an interesting line to draw – I don’t know the numbers of how many people don’t have religious views against it but instead have personal or ethical views against it; so I think there needs to be a line drawn where we ensure religious freedom, but we also make sure that people aren’t using it as a way to take advantage of the system,” said Fox.
All in all, vaccinations remain a highly contentious issue. Recently, there has been a rise in the “anti-vax” movement, whose members oppose vaccinations. This rise began after the publication of a study by an English doctor that concluded that vaccinated children are more likely to get autism, despite being based off of false data. “This rise of anti-vaxers is a haven of misinformation, fake news, and it’s just not good for the nation as a whole,” said sophomore Urbar Kattel.
Savukinas, who believes in vaccinations, was highly critical of the whole situation, especially the government’s part in vaccinations. “I think there’s a lot of people who work harder than [people who cannot afford vaccines] – a lot of people who worked their hardest to get really high-paying jobs and skills and get high college degrees, and I think we shouldn’t take away from them to provide for the rest of society,” he said. “Government funded healthcare is just too much. I don’t think you have a right to be healthy.”
Ultimately, most students agreed with the free vaccinations, and urged the unvaccinated students to take advantage of them. As freshman Andrew Bloom said, “They should go get vaccinated.”