The Royal Tenenbaums’ Melanie Laurent: My landlord is unvaccinated and I’m giving him a loan. Is it possible?

Q. I am giving my elderly landlord a loan. I want to know if I can ask for a payment plan in the event that he dies. I heard he’s unvaccinated. Can I really expect a decent loan with this kind of risk?

A. It is hard to pinpoint the exact percentage of elderly and uninsured Americans who are not vaccinated. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which has pressed Congress for national immunization guidelines and public reports, reports that only 4 percent of children attending preschool or kindergarten in the 50 states are fully vaccinated. An April Pew Research Center poll found that 3 in 4 Americans believed vaccinations cause “preventable diseases,” and almost half think families who choose not to vaccinate their children are “silly.” Despite the belief that vaccination is “risky,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that once a vaccination is administered, only one person will ever contract the virus that has been vaccinated.

On top of being inconvenient and scary, measles is sometimes fatal. Earlier this year, two separate cases of measles—the worst measles outbreak in the United States in more than 15 years—occurred in California, where a man who had been on a trip to Mexico contracted the disease on arrival and spread it through an outbreak of measles in his home. In the United States, it is difficult to obtain a personal or religious exemption to immunization requirements, so the whole topic is a simple message for parents to consider: if you are taking an old man on vacation, ask if he has ever been vaccinated.

There are two main reasons that many families eschew vaccinations. First, parents have personal objections to a vaccine and usually cite potential side effects, such as soreness or side effects of the vaccine itself. But researchers from Columbia University Medical Center have found that all vaccines have similarly low rates of side effects and these concerns don’t seem to affect vaccination decisions.

The second reason for vaccine avoidance is that some parents are simply unwilling to vaccinate. This is a sad fact, but parents who are motivated by ideological and religious reasons are allowed to choose their child’s vaccination. Parents, for example, who oppose immunizations on religious grounds are permitted to opt out, as are parents who do not believe that vaccines will “improve” health by decreasing the risk of childhood diseases. Despite the risk of disease if parents do not vaccinate, hundreds of thousands of American parents continue to do so every year. So, for now, it seems like a safe bet.

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