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Article posted: 6/30/2013 5:00 AM

Why give voice to unconventional views?

By Jim Davis

The topic hasn't come up lately, but I'm presuming we would not profile someone trying to sell far and wide the theory that the Holocaust did not exist. There are those who hold such beliefs, of course, but they are regarded askance by most of the world.

Still, that was the argument made to staff writer James Fuller as he researched today's Page 1 story and sidebar about parents who wish not to immunize their children. Giving any publicity to the anti-vaccination parent he used to illustrate the story, Hollie Redinger of Elgin, would be akin to giving credence to the "Holocaust deniers," the criticism went.

I'm sure there's a line you cross between having a controversial viewpoint and espousing beliefs that are so outlandish as to not warrant consideration. Hollie Redinger, as much as you might disagree with her, doesn't come close to crossing it.

It would be one thing, though, if we were to just pass along -- unchallenged -- her reasons for deliberately exposing her 18-month-old to the chickenpox virus. But Fuller's story was painstakingly researched, and it went to great lengths to point out that the views of Redinger and like-minded people go against established practices.

Still, you might wonder: Why publicize her views, other than the fact that they're ... different? I can name a few reasons.

The motives are many and somewhat elusive, but there are 68,000 schoolchildren in Illinois who skipped at least one type of inoculation last year. So Hollie Redinger clearly is not alone.

Specific guidelines, often skirted, allow parents not to vaccinate their kids. Even a staunchly pro-vaccination doctor tells Fuller that no one should be forced to take shots.

The practice of giving vaccinations in batches -- to make sure all the disease bases are covered -- can cause problems. "If a child has an allergic reaction, and I just gave him three or four injections, then I don't know which vaccine is the problem," said Dr. Sean Rardin, a Naperville-based family physician.

Perhaps most importantly, the debate over how immunization exemptions are granted may prompt a tightening of the rules. One commonly used and often abused reason is that of religious beliefs. The Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a strong advocate for vaccines, would like to see proof parents requesting an exemption spoke to a pediatrician about their concerns before proceeding -- rather than, as Fuller put it, "just cutting and pasting an excuse they found on the Internet."

This was not an easy story to do. Perhaps because nothing instills more passion than the health and well-being of our children, Fuller encountered some huge resistance as he looked for sources, information on social media and various websites, A lengthy email from one vaccination proponent ended with: "Please, please do not present anti-vaccination claims as if they have equal weight as the evidence-based claims supporting vaccines. It will be a disservice to your readers, and potentially to their children. Please."

I feel that Fuller's stories more than adequately address any dangers posed by the anti-vaccination advocates. We've devoted more than 80 column inches to making sure the stories fairly represented all aspects of the debate.

As for why airing the views of the side that goes against conventional wisdom is important, Fuller himself puts it quite well: "If they take the time to really find out your thinking, it can open the door to new understanding and respect even if you still disagree. I hope that's what happens with the publishing of this story."

jdavis@dailyherald.com

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