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Medical department is irresponsible

In the beginning of August, I received a notice from the Medical Department saying that I had to receive some immunizations, including German measles or rubella, in order to comply with a new Massachusetts law. According to a recent article ["Measles shot required by spring," Oct. 29], it appears that only the measles shot is required by law.

This means that the Medical Department unnecessarily required me, as well as many other women, to receive rubella immunizations. It is very important that women be immune to rubella -- if a woman becomes infected by the virus three months before or after becoming pregnant, her child will probably have congenital rubella syndrome, a wide variety of extremely severe malformations. However, there is a significant chance that the immunization itself, if administered within three months of conception, will cause these same birth defects. Some doctors require that sexually active women have a pregnancy test before receiving the shot.

There was no mention of this risk in the letter sent to students. Worse yet, when I went to receive the shots, the nurse did not even ask if I was sexually active, nor did she inform me of the dangers of the disease and its immunization. A married friend of mine, obviously sexually active, went to receive the rubella shot, as per the Medical Department's order. Just before the nurse was about to perform the injection, my friend said, "Wait a minute. I'm sexually active. Should I be getting this?" The nurse replied, "Oh. Well, you weren't planning on getting pregnant, were you?" showed some concern, then gave her the shot.

To assume that all MIT women are sexually inactive or not planning to be pregnant in the near future is extremely ignorant. No matter what the Massachusetts law may state, the MIT Medical Department should not be administering the rubella immunization to any woman without proper consultation, and sexually active patients should be able to refuse the shot if they do not want to undertake the risks associated with it. Certainly, if a woman already exercising birth control receives the shot and knows that there is a chance that her child may be seriously malformed if she becomes pregnant, she and her partner will want to take extra precautions to make sure that the situation does not occur.

To withhold the risks associated with any drug, procedure or immunization is extremely irresponsible and inexcusable. Under no conditions should this be happening in the MIT Medical Department.

Cora Dancy '93->