South staff, students respond to vaccination controversy

Hope Carrane & Sasha Vassilyeva, staff reporters

The recent measles outbreak in California, along with several confirmed cases in Illinois, led to controversy among the public about whether or not children should be vaccinated.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), there have been 16 confirmed cases of measles in the state. While it has not been confirmed, one potential explanation for the relatively high count is a lack of vaccnations. The IDPH requires the measles vaccine as one of 10 required for school enrollment. According to School Nurse Barbara Marzillo, South students’ vaccination records are taken seriously, and the requirements have been met for every student.

“I have to say at Glenbrook South, we work hard to make sure everybody’s compliant with the vaccinations and [that] they’re all up to date and [that] we get them all in,” Marzillo said. “And for the most part, people in this school had no problem with that.”

Jeff Paek, Medical Technology teacher, believes much of the concern surrounding vaccines has come from initial misinformation and isolated incidents, and that the population should examine facts for themselves.

“Rather than go with stories of somebody here or there who’s found this or that wrong with vaccinations, [they should] really see and examine for themselves where the evidence lies,” Paek said.

Among many myths about vaccines, a common falsehood is that they are ineffective or the vaccines themselves are more harmful to children than the diseases they could potentially contract, according to Marzillo.

“I have not heard vaccines are harmful- I think there’s much more,” Marzillo said.  “To me, the more important issue is what can happen when you are not vaccinated and the diseases are more of a concern.”

However, Marzillo confirmed that even with a vaccination, it is possible to acquire that disease. Yet, even if one does contract the disease after receiving a vaccination, the disease will be likely be a much milder case.

“It’s not 100% that you won’t get [the disease] but I think the most common theory is that if you have been vaccinated and you do end up getting that disease, it will be a much milder form [and] shorter in duration,” Marzillo said.

Additionally, Marzillo addressed concerns regarding a different sort of vaccine and its effectiveness: the flu vaccine. Despite many having already received the vaccine, some have still contracted the flu, but this does not render all vaccines ineffective, according to Marzillo.

“Vaccines do not cover every single strain of the flu… if you happen to end up with the flu you might have a milder case of the flu,” Marzillo said. “The other interesting thing about vaccines is that they are not 100% foolproof, for instance, we every year have one or two students who get pertussis, or whooping cough, and they have been vaccinated against that.”

Senior Christina Piron was counted among these cases, after contracting whooping cough in middle school, despite receiving her full array of vaccinations. Passed onto her by a carrier, Piron now feels strongly about vaccinations.

“I hate it that people don’t get vaccinated…they are not taking into consideration other people, because yeah, they may not actually get those viruses but they can be carriers for them which is how I got [whooping cough],” Piron said.

However, according to Marzillo, there are certain populations that are ineligible to receive vaccinations, such as those with allergies, those who are immunocompromised, and those who are exempt due to religious beliefs. The total number of people at South not vaccinated for these reasons comprise a small percentage of those in the building, Marzillo said.

“In the scope of our whole population here that’s, kind of just a tiny, tiny, percentage of children,” Marzillo said.

Vaccination of those who are able to receive them protects those who cannot, according to Paek. This works through a concept called herd immunity, Paek said.

“The vaccines not only protect the child being immunized, but there’s what’s called herd immunity, so when everybody gets immunized in a certain area, it allows for the protection of when everybody’s vaccinated,” Paek said. “What it really does is protect communities of people from an epidemic of a disease spreading.”

Paek stressed the importance of an informed population regarding immunization and to check the facts before forming conclusions.

“I think that it’s a shame,” Paek said. “People should just get informed, I think they should look at the true scientific data that’s out there.”