I am a pediatric oncologist, and I take care of some of the most medically vulnerable children in the state. Everyone getting immunized saves their lives.

My patients didn’t have a choice in getting cancer or chemotherapy, but with the advancement of cancer treatment, more than 85 percent today will be cured. However, one of the biggest concerns for them is risk of infections. When a child has a weakened immune system, infections can be devastating, and what are thought of as “routine and common” childhood infections can quickly kill.

The truth is that the choices we make are not made in a silo, but affect those around us. This is very clear with regard to the health of my patients. The Press Herald recently reported that in 2017-18, Maine had the seventh highest non-medical vaccine exemption rate in the country, at 5.3 percent.

Low vaccination rates put all Maine children at risk for diseases that are entirely preventable, and high community immunity rates are essential to protect my patients, who are unable to be vaccinated and are immune compromised. Public schools must be a safe place to learn for all children and cannot be continually disrupted by preventable disease outbreaks.

The risk is for everyone. The World Health Organization has ranked vaccine hesitancy – the growing resistance to widely available life-saving vaccines – as one of the top 10 health threats in the world for 2019. Essential life-saving vaccines have proven themselves to be safe and effective, and it is our folly if we don’t ensure that all medically eligible children get immunized.

This pediatric oncologist is imploring our leaders to take action. Ensuring that children are immunized as a condition of school entry is common-sense, constitutional and a critical measure for protecting our children and public schools.

Stanley Chaleff, M.D.


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