Dad’s Plea to School: Ban Unvaccinated Kids to Save My Son’s Life

California dad Carl Krawitt has asked his 6-year-old son’s school to take an unusual step in the fight against measles: Require all students to be fully vaccinated, despite the fact that 7 percent of them are exempt because of their parents’ personal beliefs. Krawitt made the request of the school, Reed Elementary in Tiburon, because his son Rhett just won a long battle with leukemia, leaving him immune compromised and unable to get vaccinated as he recovers.

“It’s very emotional for me,” Krawitt, who could not be reached by us but he told NPR. “If you choose not to immunize your own child and your own child dies because they get measles, OK, that’s your responsibility, that’s your choice. But if your child gets sick and gets my child sick and my child dies, then … your action has harmed my child.”

Rhett lives in Marin County, Calif., a county with the highest rate of personal exemptions in the Bay Area — 6.45 percent — and among the highest in the state, which has an average 2.5 percent exemption rate. At Reed, the rate is 7 percent. The exemptions allow parents to legally send their children to school unvaccinated. But with only 93 percent of students vaccinated, the power of herd immunity — requiring a 92 to 94 percent vaccination rate for measles — could be compromised.

“When your immune system isn’t working as well, it allows many different infections to be worse,” Rhett’s oncologist, Dr. Robert Goldsby, told NPR. “It’s not just Rhett. There are hundreds of other kids in the Bay Area that are going through cancer therapy, and it’s not fair to them. They can’t get immunized; they have to rely on their friends and colleagues and community to help protect them.”

It’s why Krawitt and his wife, Jodi, have emailed the district’s superintendent, Steven Herzog, requesting that the district “require immunization as a condition of attendance, with the only exception being those who cannot medically be vaccinated.”

According to NPR, Herzog answered the Krawitts with the following email: “We are monitoring the situation closely and will take whatever actions necessary to ensure the safety of our students.”

Marin County currently has no confirmed or suspected cases of measles. And while unvaccinated children in California are required to stay home for the entire incubation period during any contagious-disease outbreak in their school (21 days for measles), there is no precedent for excluding unvaccinated students when there are no confirmed cases of a disease, according to Marin County Public Health Officer Matt Willis.

Herzog reiterates the stay-at-home requirements to Yahoo Parenting through an email, adding, “Legally we believe it would require the County Health Officer to make the call and we then would follow the directive. I have explained this to Carl and his wife Jody.”

Willis told Yahoo Parenting, “I see the father’s request as a prompt to have important conversations as a community regarding our ethical obligations to one another.” So while the Krawitts’ request to the school “might not be going anywhere right now,” he adds, “it is going somewhere as far as stimulating discussions.”

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Dan Mullin is an active writer and editor for the Pluto Daily who covered the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Mullin attended the Wake Forest School of Medicine before leaving to pursue his lifelong science goal of allowing humans to live forever via a computer/brain transfer.