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Point of View: Personal choices, public health — Eliminating mask mandates, vaccination standards is wrong for Oklahoma

National security is also threatened when our population is weakened through illness. That aspect of the pandemic is broadly overlooked and it extends beyond the present threat COVID-19 poses. Decreased vaccination rates leave a significant portion of our country susceptible to disease. Biological warfare has been used throughout history, with devastating effects. Rejecting vaccines only increases national vulnerability.

Immunizations against vaccine-preventable diseases are one of the most remarkable achievements of medical science that we should all be thankful to have access to throughout our lifespan. The facts are simple: Vaccines have prevented countless cases of illness and death since they were developed. Our ancestors would have been amazed at the immunizations now readily available to prevent many diseases that destroyed families’ lives in their communities.

Parents are tasked with making the best possible decisions for their children, who have no choice in their exposure to disease. Herd immunity is weakened when fewer individuals are vaccinated. At least 70%, and in some diseases 95%, of a population must be immune to an infectious disease for those effects to provide optimal benefit.

Opting out of vaccination or relying on natural disease not only leaves the child vulnerable to illnesses with serious, lifelong complications or death but also risks exposing others. Refusing to vaccinate for nonmedical reasons puts the student at risk and could also affect his or her classmates, babies too young to be vaccinated and immunocompromised adults.

Freedom from illness is a human right. Masks and vaccines help ensure our continued prosperity as a nation. Unless science-backed advice is taken seriously, resuming prepandemic life will only be further delayed. Our ability to work, worship, be educated, be entertained and move forward as a community depends on every person’s willingness to take science-backed precautions. Vaccines will only help prevent future outbreaks of illnesses if people agree to be vaccinated.

Worker safety is a reasonable expectation at every job. If institutions cannot take precautions to protect their employees and the public, the ability to operate safely will be compromised. Maintaining a healthy workforce is vital to both personal and societal well-being. When we hamper the ability to protect people in the best ways we know how, death and economic destruction will logically follow.

Masks, vaccines, social distancing, good hand hygiene: Doing all we can to prevent further illness during a pandemic only makes sense. The prevention of other illnesses is also critical and something we can plan for now. For your own health and that of our families, friends and all who share our country, please follow best practices and join me in standing up to these who seek to limit their practical application in daily living.

Dr. Steven Crawford serves as chair of the Oklahoma Alliance for Healthy Families.