For the sake of her 3-year-old, leukemia-stricken daughter, Yve Duran is appealing to her Sebastopol neighbors to reconsider their views against vaccinating their children against measles.
When two cases of measles were documented last month in Marin County, Duran took her younger daughter, Elliot, from preschool on the campus of a Sebastopol elementary school. Now she worries that Elliot — who is vaccinated but is more vulnerable due to her treatment for leukemia — will contract measles, one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases, in a park or at a grocery store. She sometimes puts a mask over the girl’s mouth and nose when they go out.
“There are children (like Elliot) in the community who are relying on the people around them to keep them safe,” Duran said. “It’s very real to me.”
Duran’s plea comes as the debate over state-mandated vaccinations reaches into presidential politics and into homes throughout Sonoma County and the greater North Coast. It has prompted a growing campaign — including new legislation — in favor of childhood vaccinations that health officials say are a critical public safety tool.
The measles outbreak that began in mid-December at Disneyland and has reached 107 cases statewide, spreading as far north as Marin County, has also prompted a vocal backlash against parents who do not vaccinate their children for various reasons, including personal and religious beliefs or overriding medical considerations.
Critics fault them as people who put their own interests above the public’s welfare, while their defenders, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a presumptive candidate for president, say the so-called anti-vaxxers are asserting their right to make critical decisions regarding their children.
Tara Howley of Sebastopol, whose two daughters are not immunized against measles, defended others who make the same choice.
Her daughters have autoimmune disorders that could cause an adverse reaction to the vaccine, she said.
“I actually think it’s healthy for children to get childhood diseases,” Howley said, thereby gaining lifetime immunity without the potentially negative side-effects of vaccines.
Other parents she knows who have steered away from vaccination are lawyers, physicians and other professionals who have studied the issue, she said.
“They’re not screwballs,” Howley said.
Sonoma County has for years had pockets of people who decline to vaccinate their kids. The latest state data, however, shows that as many as 36 schools from across the county have vaccination rates for measles below the level needed to protect the general population. At some schools, the vaccination rate for measles is half that level.
Local physicians say it’s likely only a matter of time before a measles case hits this year in Sonoma County, and health officials say they are worried about the prospect of the illness running rampant in schools and surrounding communities with low levels of vaccination.
“I am concerned there are clusters of people who choose not to vaccinate (their children),” said Dr. Karen Holbrook, the county’s deputy health officer.
Overall, Sonoma County public and private schools posted a 91.48 percent kindergarten immunization rate this year, just below the statewide rate of 92.55 percent.
The county rate is sufficient “to prevent widespread illness,” Holbrook said, adding that she would prefer to see a rate in the mid-90s.
Schools in western Sonoma County, particularly, rank among the lowest for measles vaccination rates. In Sebastopol and Occidental, for example, a total of four schools reported immunization rates of roughly 23 to 58 percent — far from the 90 percent threshold that indicates protection for the population at large, a concept known as “herd immunity.”
California pot: Smoke it (or eat it) if you can get it
OAKLAND — It wasn’t exactly reefer madness Monday as California launched the first legal sales of recreational marijuana, but those who could find the drug celebrated the historic day, lining up early for ribbon cuttings, freebies and offerings ranging from cookies to gummy bears to weed with names like heaven mountain.
Jeff Deakin, 66, his wife Mary and their dog waited in the cold all night to be first in a line of 100 people when Harborside dispensary, a longtime medical pot shop in Oakland, opened at 6 a.m. and offered early customers joints for a penny and free T-shirts that read “Flower to the People — Cannabis for All.”
“It’s been so long since others and myself could walk into a place where you could feel safe and secure and be able to get something that was good without having to go to the back alley,” Deakin said. “This is kind of a big deal for everybody.”
Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo used a giant pair of scissors to cut a green ribbon, declaring, “With these scissors I dub thee free,” before ringing up the first customer at a cash register.
Sales were brisk in the shops lucky to score one of the roughly 100 state licenses issued so far, but customers in some of the state’s largest cities were out of luck. Los Angeles and San Francisco hadn’t authorized shops in time to get state licenses and other cities, such as Riverside and Fresno, blocked sales altogether.
Licensed shops are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, around Palm Springs, San Jose and Santa Cruz, where the KindPeoples shop tacked up a banner Monday declaring, “Prohibition is Over!”
The state banned what it called “loco-weed” in 1913, though it has eased criminal penalties for use of the drug since the 1970s and was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996.
California voters in 2016 made it legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it wasn’t legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.
The nation’s most populous state now joins a growing list of states, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.
The signs that California was tripping toward legal pot sales were evident well before the stroke of midnight. California highways flashed signs before New Year’s Eve that said “Drive high, Get a DUI,” reflecting law enforcement concerns about stoned drivers. Weedmaps, the phone app that allows customers to rate shops, delivery services and shows their locations, ran a full-page ad Sunday in the Los Angeles Times that said, “Smile California. It’s Legal.”
Travis Lund, 34, said he’d been looking forward while working the graveyard shift to buy weed legally for the first time since he began smoking pot as a teen.
“I’m just stoked that it’s finally legal,” he said after purchasing an eighth of an ounce of “Mount Zion” and another type of loose leaf marijuana at Northstar Holistic Collective in Sacramento, where the fragrance of pot was strong. “I’m going to go home and get high — and enjoy it.”
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