The San Francisco public school district and the city’s Department of Public Health have partnered to provide free vaccinations at selected schools. The goal is to protect students from diseases such as measles, chickenpox and whooping cough. This collaborative effort will help keep children healthy while they are in school, and may also lessen the need for some families to pay for expensive medical care.
Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared measles eradicated in 2000, outbreaks have occurred in recent years across the country. A large outbreak in 2014 was traced to Disneyland in California. The World Health Organization reports that at least 24 million people worldwide contract measles each year with over 145,700 dying from complications of the disease.
The recent court decision in Texas that upheld religious and personal exemptions for vaccination requirements has once again raised the debate about mandatory vaccine policies. A number of parents worry that vaccinations may do more harm than good. Some believe vaccines cause autism, whereas others think the normal childhood diseases are preferable to contracting a preventable disease such as measles or whooping cough.
The San Francisco school district says that vaccinations are effective because they protect not only an individual student but also the community as a whole. The city’s health department claims that 85 to 95 percent of adolescents need to be vaccinated in order for “herd immunity” to occur, which prevents outbreaks from spreading among the population.
This collaborative effort between the school district and health department is part of San Francisco’s “Getting To Zero” initiative. This program aims to eliminate cases of six vaccine-preventable diseases by 2020, including measles, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and chickenpox. The SFDPH reports that in 2016 there were no reported cases of these diseases in the city.
The SFDPH has already vaccinated over 20,000 students this school year, and will continue to expand its efforts by increasing the number of schools offering vaccinations. Parents should consult with their child’s doctor if they have questions about which vaccines are right for their family or child. To find a vaccine clinic near you visit the SFDPH website.
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