Last week, the Wisconsin State Journal shared a rather excellent interactive map showing the vaccination exemption rates of different schools in Madison. Of course, religious schools were high on the list, but so were the public elementary schools of Madison's near east side, Marquette and Lapham.
Having lived one block away from Marquette for several years, I'm not really surprised to see that a number of anti-vaxxers live in the neighborhood. But I was disappointed to see the unvaccinated rate hit 10%. If I send my kid to a religious school other than Edgewood, I have the full understanding that my kid will get an unaccountable curriculum, questionable science and parents pushing weird exemptions for all sorts of things. But with a public school, I expect too many standardized tests, demoralized teachers and some good old-fashioned herd immunity.
An elementary school student is already a sticky bag of disease wrapped up in a Minecraft T-shirt. We don't need to make them any more infectious.
Herd immunity is the idea that if you vaccinate enough of the population, it will make it hard for diseases to spread, thus helping protect those who can't get vaccinated. Some of the more notable groups who aren't vaccinated are people with immune disorders and babies.
Good thing there are no babies in Marquette. Oh wait, there are lots of babies there.
Marquette houses two separate programs featuring babies galore. One is SAPAR, an alternative education program for middle school- and high school-aged pregnant and parenting teens. I know a few teachers who work there, and I think it is one of the cooler programs in the district. It keeps young mothers in school, they learn about regular subjects as well as parenting and it preps them for a return to a more traditional high school.
As a new parent in my early 30s, I can't imagine being a teenarger raising a baby. SAPAR helps give these parents some peace of mind. The tradeoff is that their baby is exposed to diseases that can and should have been eradicated from the developed world.
Marquette also houses Wee Start, a childcare center serving children through age 5. It only operates during the school year, making it convenient for teachers and school staff. A number of the SAPAR students' babies go to Wee Start. This is a good setup that pushes for stability and academic success.
Even in a school setting without SAPAR and Wee Start, not vaccinating your child creates a public safety hazard in what is a very public space. And there are rules when you enter a public space. This is different from choosing not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I'm all for personal liberty -- make your own terrible choices for your children. But your rights are challenged when it enters the public space and endangers others. I don't care if you don't wear a seatbelt; I care if you drive drunk.
Personal exemption waivers are outdated and silly. The parents who don't want to vaccinate their children can feel free to start their own school. Form an educational co-op, let the kids learn composting. They'll get hands-on learning -- history will come alive as they contract what were the great epidemics of the past.
Marquette neighborhood residents, please take measles as seriously as you take a co-op driveway.