There is a national trend that is making people sick, and Maine is along for the ride.

The trend is to forgo vaccinations for what should be preventable childhood diseases, and it is something that ought to stop. Children are getting needlessly exposed to viruses that could kill them or cause lifelong health problems.

Parents should take their responsibility seriously and get these children the immunities they need.

The results of this trend are becoming visible. Maine had 53 cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, in 2010. We’ve had 163 in 2011 by the start of this month.

Unvaccinated people who get sick and go to a hospital or doctor’s office can spread the disease to people whose immunity is weak. Babies too young to be vaccinated are at risk of catching what could be a life-threatening infection.

There are many reasons for the decline in vaccination rates. However, many people appear to be opting out because they fear the risk of getting sick from the vaccine is greater than the risk of getting sick in a largely vaccinated and immune society. A persistent belief that a preservative used in some vaccines causes autism has driven people away from the shots, even though no study has established such a link and use of the preservative has been largely discontinued.

People who are healthy enough to be vaccinated but choose to opt out are putting themselves and others at risk.

If this trend continues, the state should step in to protect the population from those who take this dangerous gamble.