By John Schreuder, MD FAAP, Mercer Island Pediatrics
I miss so many “normal” things right now. I miss seeing friends and family in person. I miss eating out at restaurants. I miss having a normal day seeing patients in my office. I miss the usual rhythms of my family and community – children going to school, sports and other activities.
And yet, I am very grateful for the beautiful community of Mercer Island. Our community has demonstrated such strength and resilience during this pandemic quarantine that I cannot help feeling a little pride. I know school and other activities will resume with a new normal soon.
Throughout this very challenging time in quarantine, I believe the public has become much more educated about public health matters. The government’s use of quarantine as a blunt instrument tool to safeguard our health has had countless profound impacts. It has also worked quite well. Quarantine and social distancing have greatly reduced the incidence and spread of not only COVID-19, but many other infectious diseases as well. Still, I hope we don’t have to do this again.
As a physician, this time in quarantine has really made me reflect on some of the other highly effective tools we can use to protect ourselves individually and as a society against infectious diseases. For example, hand washing, face masks, social distancing, contact tracing are all tools that can hopefully not only bring us out of quarantine but keep us out. But, let’s not leave out immunization as perhaps one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. Studies have estimated that immunization is second only to hand washing in how many lives it has saved over the past century.
We are probably at least a year away from a safe, effective and adequately studied immunization against the novel coronavirus. Fortunately, there are safe and highly effective vaccines available for over a dozen other infectious diseases available right now. These diseases have not been in the news as much recently, but are still out there. As they once were, they could once again become just as big a threat to humanity as COVID-19.
Washington state continues to have one of the lowest rates of immunization in the country. While I value individual rights, choice, and freedom very highly, I hope this pandemic has taught us how interconnected and interdependent we fragile humans are. The choice not to wear a mask, wash your hands, or not immunize is, in my opinion, a selfish and irresponsible choice. Immunization is an inexpensive and safe way to protect ourselves as well as others.
On a recent teleconference with our school district’s nurses I learned that nearly 500 students are not in compliance with the new state law requiring parents to provide certification or exemption of their child’s immunization status (RCW 28A.210.090). That is a lot of students!
Right now is a fantastic time for parents to evaluate this. Vaccine supplies are good children’s schedules are a bit more flexible. Doctors’ offices are not very busy. Get in and get your children and yourselves immunized.
Please check your family’s immunizations, contact your physicians or other providers. Keep the curves of vaccine preventable illnesses flat. Stay safe and be well Mercer Island.