Editorial: Northampton makes right call on vaccines, nukes

  • In this March 27, 2019, file photo, measles, mumps and rubella vaccines sit in a cooler at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y. AP photo

Published: 6/28/2019 4:43:53 PM

The Northampton City Council’s effort to boost vaccination rates so kids don’t get measles — a disease that had been declared eradicated in the U.S. nearly two decades ago but that made a comeback this year — or other dangerous communicable diseases is a no-brainer.

A unanimously approved resolution, which calls on the state Legislature to eliminate religious exemptions to childhood vaccination requirements, makes a reasonable and responsible request. A bill in the House of Representatives, HD.4284, would outlaw such exemptions.

Yes, there are people whose sincerely-held beliefs prohibit vaccination. But the risk to public health is real, and it is too high. “When the expression of one’s religious beliefs puts other lives at risk, then that really goes beyond an individual’s rights,” Ward 4 City Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra said at a council meeting earlier this month.

Let’s be clear: Today’s vaccines are the safest in history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors like Andrew Wakefield, the quack who put forth fraudulent studies that said otherwise some 20 years ago, was struck off the United Kingdom’s medical register.

Every year, the CDC — which has a trove of vaccine information on its website — says tens of thousands of Americans get sick from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. “Immunization is our best protection against these diseases,” the respected government agency states.

The vast majority do vaccinate, and only 2.2 percent of school-age children had a vaccine exemption in 2017, according to a national survey by the CDC. This is important, the agency notes, because the germs that cause vaccine-preventable disease still exist and can be spread to people who are not protected by vaccines.

“We forget these diseases weren’t just like, ‘I feel terrible my child is sick.’ They were killing people,” Gloria DiFulvio, a senior lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, told the Gazette in an email. “We forget that because we’ve done a good job with prevention.”

How are we still talking about this? We hope that the few who have decided not to vaccinate their children change their mind.

No nukes in Northampton

The Valley is home to a handful of prominent anti-nuclear weapons activists, so it makes sense that Northampton has long been at the forefront of the fight to eliminate these weapons of mass destruction from the world.

The city was recently honored by NuclearBan.US, a chapter of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, for its alignment with the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Northampton’s efforts include an executive order against contracting with companies that manufacture nuclear weapons, avoiding investments in such companies, and marking Sept. 26 as Nuclear Ban Day in the city. In 2017, the City Council passed a resolution that calls on the United States to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which no nuclear-armed country has signed. And Mayor David Narkewicz has gone so far as to send letters to CEOs of companies that manufacture nuclear weapons to let them know about the city’s policies.

Northampton’s dedication to not only nonproliferation but the eradication of nuclear weapons is admirable and should be emulated in other cities.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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