Time to take measles seriously

Re: “Outbreak: Low measles vaccination rates at many Westside schools put students at risk,” cover story, Feb. 12

We, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Health and Safety District Advisory Committee, strongly support the school district’s efforts in educating the public regarding the importance of vaccination given the recent cases of measles we’ve seen in the district. The committee is composed of a group of community members and parents who advise the district on issues related to health and safety.

Measles is a highly contagious disease spread through coughing and sneezing. It can lead to serious complications like hearing loss (one in 10 cases can result in hearing loss), pneumonia (one in 20 cases; the most common cause of death), encephalitis (one in 1,000 cases; results from swelling of the brain), and even death (also about one in 1,000 cases). The disease is preventable with the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and was thought to be eradicated in the United States since 2000 until several recent cases, which include the infection of a baseball coach at Santa Monica High School and an infant at a child care center located on the high school’s campus.

In our community, immunization rates have fallen low enough that the disease has resurfaced. While there are those who are unimmunized due to medical reasons (people who are immunocompromised due to a medical condition or medical treatment, as well as infants under the age of 12 months who are not vaccination candidates because of their age), our community contains large numbers of unvaccinated children because parents have opted out of vaccinations due to personal belief. This has allowed our community to lose the protection of herd immunity and freedom from measles. Unfortunately, the children who are most threatened are unimmunized because of medical reasons, not parental choice.

Our committee supports our district’s strong efforts to encourage parents to make sure that those children who can be vaccinated are vaccinated. Additionally, we look forward to any legislation that will lead to increased vaccination rates, including legislation recently proposed by former SMMUSD school board member and current state Sen. Ben Allen that would eliminate the personal belief exemption for vaccines.

Sion Roy, M.D.

Note: The author is chair of the SMMUSD Health and Safety District Advisory Committee, and this letter was sent on behalf of the committee.

Mad Max in Mar Vista

Last Thursday on Grandview in Mar Vista was a nightmare in full daylight. An aggressive driver was tailgating because I was obeying the speed limit and the stop signs.

The driver tried to speed around me to the right at a stop sign, unaware or indifferent to two cyclists who were biking outside the bike path so they could ride side-by-side instead of single file. I could not pull to the left because there was only one southbound lane, and I was close to National Boulevard, where cars turn right from Centinela Avenue.

The cyclists were endangered, and my passenger and I were endangered. This normally quiet street exhibited the problems we drivers have from cyclists who do not obey the rules and overly aggressive drivers. I make no mention of those who are texting while driving. What must we do to improve driving conditions?

Lynne Shapiro
Marina del Rey