80 Children Get Chicken Pox At School With Low Vaccination Rate

Twenty-five percent of students at an Australian elementary school were affected.

11/12/2015 10:21 AM AEDT | Updated 11/12/2015 10:21 AM AEDT

An Australian elementary school that calls for "tolerance" of anti-vaxxers is seeing a chicken pox outbreak that's crippling attendance.

Brunswick North West Primary School in Melbourne has only a 73 percent vaccination rate -- compared to 92 percent in the surrounding community -- and at least 80 of its 320 students have been afflicted with chicken pox over the past two weeks, according to The Age.

That means 1 in 4 students has been affected at the school, which has seen a spike in absences of up to 25 percent each day. Though most of us have been there, and though the virus can seem to only affect children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine and calls chicken pox "serious and even life-threatening" in children and adults. (It should be noted that children who have been vaccinated still have a chance of contracting the virus, according to the CDC.)

Worldwide media jumped on the school's outbreak and decried parents who oppose vaccinating their kids. The school itself garnered criticism for publicly stating, "Staff respects the right of every family to make choices about immunisation and we will definitely not exclude children who are not fully immunised from our service ... We expect all community members to act respectfully and with tolerance when interacting with other parents and carers who may have a differing opinion to their own."

Jeffrey Kluger of TIME wasn't buying it:

There may be all manner of great things about living in a big, brawling, pluralistic democracy like Australia or the U.S., but putting up with know-nothingism in the service of open-mindedness is not always one of them. If you want to believe climate change is a hoax or Roswell aliens faked the moon landings, fine. But other choices have different consequences.

They are the kinds of consequences that sickened the Brunswick school-children, who had no voice in the choice their parents made to leave them unprotected. They are the kinds of consequences, too, that were suffered by the family of Ottawa mom Tara Hills last spring, when all seven of her children came down with whooping cough, after she and her husband chose not to vaccinate them.

Next year, avoiding vaccines will be a little harder for some Australians. On Jan. 1, the country's "No Jab, No Play" laws will make vaccination in pre-schoolers mandatory. Any unvaccinated kids in child care or kindergarten will be banned, though the laws don't apply to higher grade levels. The measure will also take child care benefits from "conscientious objector" parents if their kids aren't vaccinated, according to The Trumpet

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