Cleveland Heights school mandates vaccinations after measles outbreak in New York

Updated: Nov. 26, 2018 at 10:21 PM EST
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CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, OH (WOIO) - A local school is now saying religious beliefs are no longer an excuse for refusing to have your child vaccinated. This coming as New York is experiencing a measles outbreak and there’s a chickenpox outbreak at a school in North Carolina.

“There’s really no good credible science for someone not to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Baruch Fertel with the Cleveland Clinic.

The measles outbreak in an Orthodox Jewish community in New York City has more than 100 cases. A chickenpox outbreak is ongoing at a North Carolina school with extremely high levels of religious vaccination exemptions.

Those are two of the reasons a local school is now making it mandatory for all students to be vaccinated.

“We see from these outbreaks that it can just spread like wildfire and cause harm,” said Dr. Fertel.

The Hebrew Academy of Cleveland sent a letter to parents earlier this month. School leaders say students are no longer exempt from vaccinations, even for religious beliefs.

“I don’t know of a good reason why from a religious standpoint people wouldn’t," Dr. Fertel said.

Dr. Fertel’s children also go to The Hebrew Academy of Cleveland. He said the school’s actions are mainly a precaution to make sure diseases like measles and chickenpox don’t hit Northeast Ohio.

“We live in a global world. People have family coming from all over. People travel all across the country, so it’s certainly possible for something like that to come," he said.

In the letter, school leaders wrote:

“We recognize that there are families that have strong views on both sides of this issue. However, this is not an area where we can accommodate any deviation from this new protocol.”

Dr. Fertel said he believes parents choosing to not vaccinate isn’t coming from a place of religious beliefs, but pop culture.

“A lot of it has to do with prominent celebrities all across the spectrum, even some politicians have weighted into this discussion,” he said.

He added, "some people choose not to vaccinate because they may have read some medical literature that raised some questions. That literature has really been discredited.”

The state of Ohio requires six vaccinations for students depending on the grade. Those vaccinations include Polio, Chickenpox, and Measles.

Dr. Fertel said the flu shot might be added to that list in the future. He said with the holidays here, the chances of getting the flu and other contagious diseases is concerning.

“Choosing not to vaccinate, yes it’s a personal decision, but on the other hand, it can affect other people if one becomes effected,” he said.

The only exemption from vaccines at the Hebrew Academy is for medical concerns, like if you’re allergic to a vaccine.

Dr. Fertel said those cases are very rare.

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