Thursday, October 15, 2015

Prevention is a Mitzvah

Apologies to my friend Joel Lurie Grishaver and the gang at Torah Aura Productions for stealing the title of an amazing Instant Lesson on AIDS education. But it is very apropos. This article is about a new policy in our Religious School that grew out of discussions in JEDLAB and elsewhere in the months following the outbreak of Measles traced back to visitors to Disneyland in California. The Penn and Teller video is brilliant, but the language may seem coarse to some.





I want to tell you about our new immunization policy, which was introduced to our Religious School families in Mid-July. Our Religious School Vision Team spent considerable time studying and discussing this issue following the Disneyland measles outbreak this past December. We also consulted with medical professionals to learn what the standard of care is. We came out with a fairly simple yet decisive policy:

“Because we care about the health of all members of our community, parents are required to certify that each child’s immunizations are up to date according to the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health immunization requirements for enrolled students in Connecticut schools (http://bit.ly/CTimmunize76) in order to attend our school. Medically-necessary exemptions must be certified by a physician.”
Parents send their children to religious school and assume that their children will enjoy themselves, have positive social interactions, learn from the rich Jewish environment and be safe and healthy. Safety and public health are priorities for B’nai Israel and for all of the URJ camps and Israel programs. The vaccination of all members of the community is essential in order to maintain a safe environment and decrease the risk of transmission of preventable illnesses.

The establishment of a safe environment must therefore include the requirement that all participants be adequately immunized against all of the preventable diseases as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. While parents may choose to defer the vaccination of their children, for our school this is not an issue of individual rights and choice, but an issue of public health and policy. The routine vaccination of all children, staff and faculty is an important public health matter.

As a sacred community, we have an obligation to protect the health of all of our students. Students who are not up to date with their immunizations place those who are medically unable to be immunized at significant risk.

Science
The experts are unequivocal on the science behind the health benefits of immunization. Vaccination protects children. Please see the sites of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control (http//www.cdc.gov/vaccines/acip), the American Academy of Pediatrics (http://www.aap.org), the American Academy of Family Physicians (http://www.aafp.org), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (http://www.acog.org) for more information.

Judaism
Given the science, Judaism is equally unequivocal on the subject. The highest Jewish value is pikuach nefesh – saving a life. The Central Conference of American Rabbis has stated “Jewish tradition would define immunization as part of the mitzvah of healing and recognize it as a required measure, since we are not entitled to endanger ourselves or the children for whom we are responsible... There are no valid Jewish religious grounds to support the refusal to immunize as a general principle”

So I want to appreciate that we have once again made this congregation and our school a safer place for all by ensuring we are protecting those who cannot be vaccinated. This is exactly what we did eighteen years ago when we met our first pre-schooler with a severe allergy to nuts. We simply eliminated nuts and nut products from the school wing. And it has worked.

ShareThis