To Protect His Son, Father Pushes School To Bar Unimmunized Kids
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. The recent measles outbreak centered in California is of particular concern to Carl Krawitt. His six-year-old son Rhett has been fighting leukemia. He finished chemotherapy a year ago and is now in remission. And Rhett can't be vaccinated until his immunity builds up. That's why Carl Krawitt is asking again that his son's school in Marin County bar children who haven't been vaccinated because of their parents' personal beliefs.
CARL KRAWITT: We've made that - asked for two years. I mean before Rhett even started kindergarten, we've been having this same request.
BLOCK: The school district says it's monitoring the situation, but hasn't made any further moves. Almost 7 percent of kids in Marin County aren't vaccinated. I asked Mr. Krawitt whether he's heard people say he's overreacting since there have been no confirmed cases of measles in Marin County.
KRAWITT: I think if you ask that question to the parents of the students whose communities do have a measles outbreak, you might have that same response - oh, it's an overreaction. I know what it's like to have a very sick child. I really feel for the parents that now have a child with measles or people with babies that have measles. And I'm saying why wait for it to happen before we take action? And I understand the position of the school district and the public health officers, and I hope somebody will champion this and have the courage to do more.
BLOCK: Mr. Krawitt, do you have friends who don't vaccinate their kids by choice?
KRAWITT: I don't know. I do know that I have friends that do vaccinate their children because they have been extremely supportive. I do know that there - that I have friends of friends that don't vaccinate their children because I've had, you know, really engaged conversations and debates with some of my friends about why it's so important for me and my family and especially my son. Having said that, we have friends that have their children in private schools. Some of these schools have non-immunization rates as high as 20 - 30 - 40 percent.
KRAWITT: So I don't know whether or not their children are immunized. I don't know whether they will still be my friends, but, you know, I respect people as my friends. And I hope that we can have more conversations like this to educate people on why this is so important for the health and safety of our children. Somebody made a comment to me yesterday. They are not allowed to bring their dog to a dog park if the dog is not immunized.
BLOCK: I'm curious if you've had any conversations about this - about measles in particular - with Rhett. He is only six years old, but does he know about this?
KRAWITT: Rhett does know that he is at risk of illnesses, and Rhett will make the statement, I know that if I don't get shots I could get sick. And he knows what it's like to get sick and be out of school for weeks and months at a time and have to wear a mask in public because his immune system is so, so low. I would hate for my son to go through that again, but more important I would hate for somebody else's child to have to go through what we went through.
BLOCK: Well, Mr. Krawitt, thank you so much for talking with us, and we wish you all the best for Rhett's recovery. Thanks.
KRAWITT: Thank you for inviting me.
BLOCK: Carl Krawitt is asking his son's elementary school in Marin County, Calif., to bar children who haven't been vaccinated because of personal belief exemptions. Seven percent of students at the school have that exemption. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.