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Vaccines protect us all from a myriad of harmful and potentially deadly diseases. They have safe and effective ingredients, have nearly eradicated more than a dozen illnesses, and save lives every day. Don’t believe the misinformation about vaccines. They’re a huge public health benefit, and the Department of Health and Welfare needs to keep all their vaccine rules and requirements.

Right now, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (along with every state agency) is reviewing all their administrative rules, including their rules on vaccine requirements. Those requirements are already pretty loose, and certainly don’t need to get any weaker. As a part of the review process, the Department is holding six public hearings across the state, and accepting oral and written testimony until August 28th. The hearing for this area happens 1-4 p.m. Thursday at the Medicaid Central Office on 3232 Elder Street in Boise. If you can’t be there, you can go to GetImmunizedIdaho.org for more information on sending a strong message of support.

I believe in everyone’s personal freedom of choice. But, I don’t believe anyone’s decisions should put the entire community in danger. Choices are not personal when they affect people not making those choices. Driving drunk is not a personal choice because it puts everyone else on the road in danger. Choosing to opt out of immunizations is not a personal choice because it puts everyone else in the community in danger of contracting diseases. If you want to do that, keep your kid at home. We are free to make our own choices, but we are not free to hurt other people. All our laws, especially our vaccine rules, protect our rights, freedoms, and health.

Vaccines have played the biggest role in defeating deadly diseases. While indoor plumbing, nutrition, and widespread healthcare access have helped make 14 harmful diseases a worry of the past, vaccines are the key. Correlation does not equal causation. That’s a fancy way of saying just because two things happened at the same time, doesn’t mean one thing caused the other. Vaccines have been successfully developed, studied, and used over more than a century to protect us against deadly diseases. They are some of the greatest health advances of the past century, and save lives every day.

Vaccine ingredients are safe and effective. Do they contain harmless versions of diseases? Yes, but only so your body can train to fight off the real thing, like a boxer. Besides that, vaccines contain the same ingredients you’ll find in drinking water or in your body already. Our biggest worry isn’t with what’s in vaccines, but with the easing of requirements on this life-saving medicine.

Vaccines protect us all, even the people who don’t get vaccinated, and especially the people who can’t get vaccinated. There are some people who, for medical reasons like cancer, can’t be vaccinated. Infants also can’t be vaccinated. However, if a high enough percentage of people in the community around them are immunized, they are protected too. When people choose not to get vaccinated, they’re putting babies and vulnerable groups at risk.

Vaccines have been proven safe and effective over more than a century of defeating dangerous diseases. Vaccines don’t just save lives; they save communities. That’s why the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare needs to keep all their rules on vaccines in place to protect as many Idahoans as they can.

Karen Sharpnack is the executive director of the Idaho Immunization Coalition.

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