Reporter John Richardson’s timely report on the small number of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children against life-threatening childhood diseases deserves comment (“As immunization rates decline, health concerns grow,” Dec. 4).

First, it is important to be mindful of the fact that most parents do make a responsible and conscientious decision to comply with the recommendations for vaccinations in order to protect their children from devastating illnesses.

It is ironic that vaccines are becoming victims of their own success. Since we now seldom see those childhood diseases that are prevented by these vaccines, some parents have been seduced into thinking that their children can go unvaccinated with impunity.

However, even a limited but growing number of unvaccinated children leave them and others at risk of becoming victims themselves.

All of us physicians now of retirement age can recall all too well children in the 1970s and 1980s who acquired potentially fatal infectious diseases of the brain, heart, lungs or blood which are now rarely seen due to the development of new vaccines in the past 25 years.

There is an irrefutable abundance of science, evidence and history supporting the decision to vaccinate.

To capitulate to fear and to refuse to vaccinate is no more rational than never to leave home for fear of being struck by lightening or never to ride in a motor vehicle for fear of being killed in a crash.

Almost 100 years ago Albert Einstein famously stated, “God does not play dice with the universe.” If he were alive today, perhaps Einstein would also say that neither should parents play dice with the health and lives of children, be they their own or the children of other parents.

Nicholas Fowler, M.D.

South Portland 

To a hypothetical patient, in response to the article “Skipping shots: A calculated risk?” (Nov. 29).

Little One,

I am so sorry to see you in our Emergency Department today. You are really sick, and we are trying to save your life.

Your parents love you. They buckled you in your car seat, even bought you organic milk. But the one thing they didn’t do was get you vaccinated.

Now you are brought here, struggling to breathe. You are limp and blue from lack of oxygen. You didn’t fight the oxygen mask — a bad sign. Is it because of brain inflammation from measles? Fighting for air battling chickenpox pneumonia? Or are you slowly being strangled by throat blockage from epiglottis? Did your big sister bring home pertussis from her school?

Your parents were afraid of the vaccines. Did they believe the fraud who lied and said the shots would give you autism? That’s been proven untrue. Did they rebel against “Big Pharma” that would make money from vaccines? They are in business to make medicine — just like the companies who made the machines we are hooking you up to, and the antibiotics we pray will work.

Now your parents are really afraid. Will you be one of the children who dies of vaccine-preventable infection this year? If you survive, will you be brain-damaged? Paralyzed? Have seizures?

All we can do now is try to change what should have been prevented.

All we can do is get the word out that preventable infections that have been controlled for so long are coming back, and we have the power to stop them.

All we can do is educate parents about the facts, so they won’t be afraid.

Annette O’Gorman


The Maine Sunday Telegram article on vaccines was a wonderful opportunity to have a thoughtful, dynamic, and unbiased discussion about children’s health and the issue of vaccines.

Unfortunately, the article failed to do this.

The article simplified the complex issue of an individual child’s health and health needs into a mandate for all children to be vaccinated.

Encouraging parents to make health decisions with inadequate information or from a place of fear does a profound disservice to all our children.

A comprehensive and well-informed article would have greatly benefited your readers.

Sarah Murphy


Elected state officials need a chance to set priorities

Let them do their job!

I am more confident than ever that our state government will make the right budgetary decisions.

They have noticed from the declining tax revenue that we are all struggling, and raising taxes or taking on more debt will only cripple us more. They are aware that we find spending more than we have and robbing Peter to pay Paul unacceptable. The last election is proof of that.

Why are some unhappy that the final decisions must come down to assigning priorities and simple arithmetic? That is how each of us conducts our personal finances. We are fortunate that for the first time in a long while, government must and will live within its means. The efficiency gains that result from finally facing reality will benefit all of us for many years to come.

Some believe we must all travel to Augusta, make a ruckus, phone and email officials in order for them to assign priority correctly.

Honestly, if our officials can be badgered one way or another, then we have the wrong people in Augusta.

I think almost anyone, especially our elected officials, is capable of assigning priority for spending limited taxpayer resources. If not, then we will get them more help at the next election, but for now everyone should stay out of their way and let them get to it.

John Field


Time to take a close look at hiring of substitutes

Every day dangerous people spend days with our children in the name of education.

Teachers wanted in Maine: no background checks. No fingerprint checks.

Substitute teachers do not need to be certified teachers and can substitute up to 10 days in a given position with only a General Educational Development certificate or high school diploma.

Substitutes are hired and paid locally, based on state regulations governing who can be hired and for how long. They are covered by Maine Department of Education rules and are not included in local contracts. Superintendents “register” substitutes by sending the DOE a form with the substitute’s name and level of education, but there is no follow-up.

The need is to reduce abuses by superintendents who fill regular teaching positions with substitutes to avoid hiring a fully qualified and more costly certified teacher.

Sometimes a relative or desired person is hired who doesn’t meet teacher qualifications. Substitutes are so scarce that a for-profit company that promised to supply substitutes went out of business. Next year, substitutes must be fingerprinted and have a criminal record check.

How safe do you feel your kids are?

Ray Arft


Where was news coverage of yearly Army-Navy game?

I find it incredible that The Portland Press Herald should choose not to publish a single word on the outcome of one of the most traditional, long-standing rivalries in American football, the annual Army-Navy game.

The game was played Dec. 10 for the 112th time, this year for the first time in Washington, D.C., with both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as special guests.

Who is responsible for such a gross lack of sports news judgment?

Joe Brown