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Parents refuse to vaccinate a child. Are others at risk?

DEAR AMY: My 2-year-old grandson’s parents refuse to have him immunized. This is causing a huge problem with the parents of our other grandchildren. Our 6-month-old granddaughter has not had all of her vaccinations yet, and her mother is worried about her being around the unimmunized 2-year-old. She is refusing to come to our home for the holidays if the unvaccinated child is there. We have several other grandchildren under the age of 10 whose parents also are concerned. Someone is going to miss this family gathering. How vulnerable is our youngest grandchild, who is still in the process of getting her first-year shots?

Frustrated and Concerned

DEAR FRUSTRATED: I turned to David Thoele, a pediatrician at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, for professional guidance.

Dr. Thoele responds: “Back in the ‘bad old days,’ when everyone saw polio, measles, diphtheria and other diseases causing severe illness and death, few questioned the value of vaccines.

“With the widespread success of vaccinations, these diseases have almost disappeared, thanks to individual immunity (people who are immunized) and ‘herd immunity.’ Herd immunity means most people are vaccinated, so everyone is protected: The disease is so rare it can’t spread. Herd immunity protects us all, but is especially important for people with weak immune systems, such as babies, people with cancer, HIV and cystic fibrosis.

“If enough people don’t vaccinate their children (vaccination rates have been decreasing), herd immunity will decrease, leading to outbreaks of these diseases. A recent outbreak of measles occurred in children who visited Disneyland — and most who caught the disease were unvaccinated or infants.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that: Unimmunized children are at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases and also create risk of disease outbreaks in young infants and children who medically cannot be immunized.”

I note the irony that this fortunate 2-year-old is likely protected from preventable disease by being surrounded by others who have been immunized. Because of this, understand that unless this toddler is in contact with people with active measles, polio or other diseases (highly unlikely), the chance the other children would catch one of these illnesses is exceedingly rare.

Dr. Thoele and I both hope that everyone attends the family get-together, and that all family members should try their best to be nice to one another. There is, fortunately, no vaccine preventing that.

DEAR AMY: I recently got married. I am 44, my husband is 50.

It is a second marriage for both. He told me his first wife was crazy and that she fabricated abuse allegations to the point where she has a lifetime restraining order against him. Twice he appealed the court’s decision and lost, so the order remains in place. I chose to believe him. Someone sent me some of the court documents outlining what his crazy ex-wife claims he did to her. It was full of physical, financial, verbal and sexual abuse. I wonder if I was wrong to believe him. What do you think?

Worried

DEAR WORRIED: My understanding is that a “lifetime” (or “permanent”) restraining order is issued through the courts, after both sides have presented evidence. The allegations would have to meet a standard of proof at this hearing. Your husband’s “crazy” ex would have had to convince the court that her allegations were true and that she was in continuing danger.

Your husband allegedly went to court twice to try to get this lifted, but was unable to convince the court that he was no longer a danger to his ex.

Understand that if the ex-wife is volatile, having a restraining order in place would also protect your husband from any contact with her. Without contact, she can’t continue to make allegations. Why appeal it?

You don’t mention who sent you these documents, but you should assume the person was trying to warn you, and yes, you should take this very seriously. You should go to the courthouse in the county where the alleged offenses happened (if you are able) to access these public records for yourself, or see a lawyer to try to verify them — and the claims they contain.

You also can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at thehotline.org.

DEAR AMY: Your answer to “Worried Sister,” who was concerned about exposing her adolescent daughters to her violent, sex offender brother over the holidays was spot-on. That answer ranks as one of the best pieces of advice you have ever written.

Cynthia

DEAR CYNTHIA: Thank you. My advice was to trust her instincts.

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