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Our View: Arizona needs to require students to get vaccinations

December 18, 2018 GMT

Arizona residents have a strong independent streak, but sometimes — at least when it comes to staying healthy — what’s good for the group is best for the individual.

News that there’s been a “slight uptick,” as Gov. Ducey puts it, in the number of Arizona students who don’t have required inoculations against dangerous yet preventable diseases should be awfully concerning to all of us. Unlike other health care issues, this isn’t a matter of being able to afford treatment: According to a Capitol Media Services report earlier this year, the reason for not having kids immunized against diseases like polio and the measles is personal: The parents simply don’t want their children vaccinated. That’s their right. But those kids should not be allowed to attend Arizona public schools.

Arizona has a 5.4 percent noncompliance rate for personal reasons. That’s on top of the .7 percent of children who have medical reasons they can’t get the shots. To put it in real numbers, that means there are about 60,000 kids in Arizona who don’t have their required vaccines.

That puts the rest of us at higher risk for those diseases. The medical community stresses the need to create “herd immunity,” which means if nearly everyone is vaccinated, the chances of a disease spreading through a school from one infected child to others is much reduced.

Ducey says he’s reluctant to mandate the immunizations, opting instead for increased education for parents and communities. But we think he should be willing to push harder. Mandate vaccines for students.

We’re seeing a growing number of measles cases pop up again despite decades of effort to eradicate the disease. If parents don’t want their kids to get the shot, that’s their right under Arizona state law. But don’t put the rest of us at risk. All children, perhaps with the exception of those who have a medical exemption, should be required to be up to date on their shots before being allowed to attend public schools. For what it’s worth, it’s a shame that legislators voted a few years ago to allow foster children to be placed in homes where other children aren’t inoculated. That also ought to be changed.

In other news about diseases that are preventable with a simple shot, it’s pretty clear that flu season has arrived in Arizona. The good news is, you still have time to get your flu shot. The bad news is, you had better do it soon. Flu season is here, but its peak won’t hit for another month or so according to historic data for the state. So far, 809 confirmed cases have been reported in Arizona since October, the beginning of flu season. In Mohave County, there have been 26 cases reported in that same time. However, if past flu seasons are any indication, we’re just weeks away from being in the thick of it.

Don’t put off your flu shot. It’s readily available, and you ought to get one now if you haven’t done so yet. Residents should check with their health care providers and the vaccinations are offered at several pharmacies and other locations around town.

— Today’s News-Herald