Your Letters

Taking Shots

You present a misleading, unbalanced story (“Calling the Shots,” September 2014) that supports Marin parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. While I support individual choice in most cases, I wonder if these parents take into account how their decision may negatively impact other children and their community. I respect these parents’ decision to not vaccinate their kids but don’t believe they are thinking of other children at their kids’ school and the consequences of their decision. Moreover, It would have been nice if science and facts and the counter-argument were presented in the article so more parents could make informed health decisions. I would suggest the rights of the “non-vaccinators” are being presented to be more important than the rights of the other 92 percent of responsible Marin parents. What about the rights of the Marin community? JON KRAGH, VIA EMAIL

What a nice, “balanced look” at the vaccination issue. In your follow-up, I suggest an interview with a parent whose infant died of pertussis, accompanied by photos of polio-stricken children in exotic travel locations favored by Marinites, and a blow-by-blow description of the onset and treatment of rubella. Those are the real-life consequences of the Personal Belief Exemption. Parents should see before they choose. KATHY ASTROMOFF, SANTA CRUZ

As a survivor of childhood polio and one who has lived with paralysis and underdevelopment of one leg and foot for 63 years, I thank you for bringing the issue of vaccination to the Marin public. I also am the facilitator for one of two post-polio support groups and info sources in the Bay Area, Post-Polio Marin, also serving Sonoma and Napa counties. We have located 30 polio survivors in Marin County, but I am sure there are far more. While I respect freedom of choice, I feel that the choice not to vaccinate children is a naively uninformed and foolish one. Well-meaning parents may think their lifestyles preclude infectious diseases. My parents, while I was a child in the 1950s, had a huge organic vegetable and fruit garden; we ate very little meat and got lots of fresh air and exercise. I have a strong immune system. This did not prevent me from contracting diseases. Thank you again for your wise inclusion of this topic in a well-educated county, which is unfortunately directing itself backward. FRANCINE FALK-ALLEN, SAN RAFAEL

Know the Signs

The tragic death of Robin Williams has brought suicide into mainstream conversation and has provided an opportunity to review what to do when signs of depression are apparent in a friend or family member. You can start by erasing any resistance you may have to addressing the subject. Suicide happens in secret. Bringing the subject into the light by discussing it can help those thinking about suicide. Be straightforward, name the symptoms you notice, and ask, “Do you ever have thoughts of suicide?” Unless you feel completely reassured to the contrary, ask for details: how would the person go about it and under what circumstances. If a plan has been thought out, you have a very real reason to be concerned. Get this person to agree and confirm that he or she will contact you before taking any such action. A written agreement is best, because it engages more of the senses, but one made with eye contact and a handshake is better than none. Make sure your person of concern has the phone number of an effective crisis hot line. Let family members know. Don’t let fear of betrayal stop you from saving a life. If danger is imminent, you need to be more direct and proactive and get the person to a hospital, or if you cannot do that, engage the help of police. For more details about what to do, call the crisis hot line at 415.499.1100 or take a course with the North Bay Suicide Prevention Project. BARBARA NELSON, MA, LMFT, SAUSALITO