I am one of four pediatric lung specialists from Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital who serve Maine’s most vulnerable children. My patients are premature infants, children with cystic fibrosis and toddlers with muscular dystrophy, among others.

My extensive medical training occurred in states that have the lowest vaccination rates in the country, and I have witnessed the devastating effects this has on children. During the swine flu epidemic, I treated an unvaccinated 4-year-old girl in respiratory failure. Despite our tireless efforts, which included placing her on a ventilator and later on a bypass machine, she died.

I also cared for a 2-week-old infant with pertussis. She was too young to receive the first vaccine and her family wasn’t vaccinated. My patient had been at home when she stopped breathing. She was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit and required a tube to breathe, but even that was insufficient. She died.

My aunt contracted measles in 1957 before the first vaccine existed. She was a healthy 2-year-old when she was diagnosed with measles-induced meningitis. Ten years later, she died of complications from the recurrence of the virus.

All three of these deaths may have been prevented if these children and their loved ones had been vaccinated.

Right now, Maine’s community immunity rates are not high enough to ensure that children who cannot be immunized attend safe schools. On behalf of all children, our communities and the legacy of prioritizing health and education in Maine, on March 3 please vote “No” on Question 1.

Anne Coates, M.D.

pediatric pulmonologist, Maine Medical Center Pediatric Specialty Care

Portland

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