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Summer Camps Are Turning Away Unvaccinated Kids

Summertime is here, and for many kids that means a week – or multiple weeks – of summer camp. I went to a couple of different Christian camps as a kid, and I even volunteered at one for a few years. There’s nothing like a summer camp experience.

Most summer camps put kids’ safety at the top of the priority list, like organizations who work with children should. There’s always a nurse, whether it’s a trained nurse or volunteer, and staff and counselors make sure that nothing drastic happens.

Of course bad things do happen. Skinned knees and the occasional sprained ankle or broken bone are part of the camp experience. Sometimes kids even get sick. But in 21st century America, it’s hard to believe that we would have to worry about the risk of measles and other horrible conditions, but we do.

That’s why camps all across the country are turning down children whose parents have refused to vaccinate them. In the eyes of these camp directors, it’s a sound decision that helps ensure the safety of the many at the expense of turning away the few. As Reuters reports:

Scott Rosmarin, whose family has operated Rosmarins Day Camp in Monroe, New York, for three generations, said he has already sent past camp families a letter warning that he will turn away longtime campers if their parents cite religious or philosophical objections to the vaccine.

“I used to accept kids if they had a religious exemption, but now I’m not,” Rosmarin said in a phone interview from his camp in the Hudson Valley, about 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City. “If I lose a couple kids, I lose a couple kids … You’ve got to do what’s right.”

Cases of measles are on the rise in this country, with outbreaks in Washington State, New York, and California causing concern. And there’s no federal standard for whether camps should or shouldn’t allow unvaccinated kids to attend camps. It’s an individual decision that each location must make when there are no state rules in place.

Some organizations, including one devoted to camp nurses, are advocating the policy that these camps are enacting.

The Association of Camp Nursing, a national professional organization for camp nurses and other staff, posted a letter on its website this month warning that everyone at camp should be fully immunized unless they have a medical exemption.

For so many camp directors, it’s an easy choice: turn away a few kids in order to protect the rest of the campers and counselors. And it’s a smart decision, because both the health and public relations issues that would arise from a measles outbreak at a particular camp would be devastating – and bad for business.

I don’t blame these camp directors. They’re looking out for both their businesses and the families they serve. If that makes a handful of parents angry, so be it.

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