Over the Hill

Vaccine law will help keep California and its kids healthy

A vial containing the MMR vaccine is loaded into a syringe before being given to a 1-year-old baby at the Medical Arts Pediatric Med Group in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, 2015.
A vial containing the MMR vaccine is loaded into a syringe before being given to a 1-year-old baby at the Medical Arts Pediatric Med Group in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, 2015. TNS

The children of Silicon Valley technologists should be vaccinated the same as the children of northern San Luis Obispo County vineyard workers. Vaccinations can stop several diseases from spreading — and may someday eliminate them.

Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire co-founder and CEO of Facebook, apparently agrees with me. He took his new baby daughter, Max, to her doctor last Friday. So naturally, he posted a brief message on his Facebook page along with a picture of him and Max for his 47 million followers to see. He wrote, “Doctor’s visit — time for vaccines.”

He’s apparently taking sides in the pro-vaccines vs. anti-vaccines controversy. Many Silicon Valley technologists may disagree with him. WIRED magazine said vaccination rates are below average in half of the day-care centers allied with leading technology firms.

I may not be in the Silicon Valley, or even fully in the digital age, but I agree with Zuckerberg’s position. I base my opinion partly on my family history. When my father was a boy, two of his sisters died of diphtheria. And two of my mother’s sisters also died of diphtheria.

There are now shots to prevent diphtheria. In developed countries, diphtheria has become a rare disease. Only 57 cases were reported in the United States between 1980 and 2004.

My mother and my father also had smallpox vaccination scars. Each of them had one round scar on the upper left arm. It was light colored and smooth and the size of a quarter.

I myself also have a smaller smallpox vaccination scar on my upper left arm. If I remember right, the vaccine was scratched into my skin with something sharp, not injected into a muscle. I suppose it contained cowpox germs, which then caused me to develop immunity to smallpox.

The last case of smallpox on Earth was diagnosed on Oct. 26, 1977. Then in 1979, the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated. Wikipedia says that during the 20th century, an estimated 300 million to 500 million people died of smallpox.

A new California law took effect this month that greatly strengthened our mandatory vaccination rules. Parents who want to send their children to public or private schools or day care can no longer get exempted from vaccinations because of religious or personal beliefs.

When Gov. Jerry Brown signed that law last June, he said, “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

And the Public Policy Institute of California reported mandatory vaccinations are supported by 60 percent of Californians. I’m one of those Californians, and, apparently, so is little Max Zuckerberg’s father.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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