Evanston Residents Weigh in On Vaccinations

A writing exercise I completed at the Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute. I had a day to conduct “man on the street” interviews and find out what Evanston residents think about government-mandated vaccinations for children.

Two out of three Evanston residents interviewed downtown on Friday afternoon believe that the federal government should mandate that all children be vaccinated against preventable, dangerous diseases in light of the state law gaining ground in California.

Barbara Schwind, a 60-year-old volunteer, thinks that vaccinations are crucial in ensuring the safety of everyone at schools.

“[The presence of non-vaccinated children] would put my grandchildren at risk, infants at risk and pregnant women, who are teachers, at risk,” Schwind said, while strolling down Church Street.

Schwind still feels that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but those who oppose vaccinations should seek out alternative educations for their children, instead of putting those in the public school system at risk.

“I think [people who are against mandatory vaccinations] have the right to object, and they should be very careful with where they send their children, and they should go to private school, if private school doesn’t also mandate the same thing,” Schwind said.

Schwind isn’t the only one who believes vaccinations are important. Maggie O’Grady, a 35-year-old mother, is in favor of federal action because she wants her daughter to be safe from potentially life-threatening illnesses.

“I think every kid should get vaccinations,” O’Grady said, as she sat in the grass with her young daughter squirming on her lap at Arne & Mary Oldberg Park. “I mean, what happened this year with Disneyland, no one wants to get these diseases, and they can spread around if kids aren’t protected.”

The outbreak of measles at Disneyland in mid-April also influenced Schwind’s opinions about vaccinations.

“The rash at Disneyland was what made me go, ‘Gosh, people should be getting vaccinated,’” Schwind said.

Despite the fact that O’Grady feels strongly about vaccinating all schoolchildren, she would never impose her beliefs on other parents.

“I probably wouldn’t talk to another parent about it,” O’Grady said. “I don’t know that it’s my place to give them advice necessarily, but that’s why it would be nice if there was a rule, so parents wouldn’t need to get into it with each other.”

Christian Stangl, a 39-year-old web programmer, has a similar belief about imposing viewpoints on others, but in he believes that the federal government should remain uninvolved, as opposed to other parents.

“We’ve got enough government intrusion in our lives,” Strangl said, while smoking a cigarette on Orrington Avenue. “Personally, if I had kids, they would be vaccinated, but we have to draw a line where federal stops and family starts.”

Strangl believes that parents should make it a point to get educated about the science behind vaccinations.

“I understand people have read studies that have been debunked that say vaccinations can lead to other illnesses,” Strangle said. “I hope everybody understands that those studies were wrong.”

Strangl thinks vaccinations are important, but he thinks that it is more important for the federal government to not interfere in people’s parenting methods.

“It all comes back to, the government shouldn’t be telling a family what’s best for them,” Strangl said. “I don’t need the federal government to shower every day. Logic tells me to shower every day.”

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