To The Editor:

The New Jersey State Legislature is currently considering legislation (S-2173) to increase immunizations among children in the state.

Although the bill passed in the Assembly, it is still being considered in the State Senate. The recent compromise amendments by Senator Declan O’Scanlon limit the proposed new requirements only to public schools. The Westfield Board of Health strongly endorses the passage of this bill by the Senate and signature by the Governor as soon as possible.

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The Westfield Board of Health has considered the need to expand immunizations among children in the past, and has supported the vigorous enforcement of current regulations and laws. Although vaccines have been effective in reducing the prevalence of communicable diseases, these diseases are still present and can be deadly.

Numerous studies have shown that the consequences of these diseases greatly outweigh the side effects of the vaccines which prevent them. Dr. Peter J. Hotez, Dean at the Baylor National School of Tropical Medicine, recently summarized some of these data (New York Times, Jan. 9, 2020).

Concerning measles disease, for example, for every 10,000 people infected, 10 to 30 children will die, about 10 will get encephalitis, 500 will get pneumonia, 2,000 will be hospitalized and 1,000 will get ear infections with potential permanent hearing loss. However, of 10,000 children who get vaccinated with MMR (measles mumps rubella) vaccine, 3 children will develop a fever-related seizure disorder. Other serious side effects, like abnormal blood clotting and allergic reactions, are even rarer. There is no risk of autism with MMR vaccine.

We know that immunizations protect children who go to schools and study in group settings. However, some children have serious underlying medical conditions so that they cannot be vaccinated and directly protected from communicable diseases. It is essential, therefore, that as many children as possible be vaccinated to best protect themselves and their classmates who cannot be vaccinated due to medical contraindications.

The Westfield Board of Health urges our State Senator, the Honorable Tom Kean, and all senators to support the current bill to expand childhood immunizations. We appreciate the work of all the senators and assembly members who champion the interests of children to protect them from communicable diseases.

Lawrence D. Budnick, MD, MPH
Immediate Past President
Westfield Board of Health
Westfield, N.J.