To Immunize or Not to Immunize?

Most schools have a standard set of requirements for student immunizations, vision, and hearing tests, but lately there has been a growing trend of parents who are refusing to give kids’ all their immunizations—which puts everyone at risk. Are we being swayed by medical myths instead of medical facts?

Here’s What I’ve Read Recently:

1. The Centers for Disease Control recommends children receive 29 different immunizations by the time they reach 4 to 6 years of age in addition to yearly flu shots starting at age 6 months.

2. Two out of five parents of toddlers have delayed or refused to give their children vaccinations.

3. Medical experts worry that diseases that had been eradicated will appear again because of parents not giving their children all the recommended vaccinations.

4. Diseases that have been eradicated in the United States are beginning to appear again. The first outbreak of polio in 26 years occurred in 2005 among a group of families that had refused to give their children immunizations. Recently, dengue fever has been reported in Key West, Florida.

5. The main reasons parents reject vaccines include the child being ill (44%), thinking that too many shots are recommended (27%), doubting the effectiveness of vaccines (26%), concerns about autism (25%), and concerns about side effects or safety (24%).

6. The medical doctor, who convinced millions of parents not to get vaccines because they could cause autism, has lost his medical license because the country’s top medical group deemed his research on vaccinations unethical.

7. Vaccines not only protect individual children from getting sick, but they also protect other people who may have weakened immune systems and also generations to come from diseases that have crippled and killed children for hundreds of years.

Here’s My Take On It:

How many people do you know who have had polio? Or measles? Or pertussis? If you’ve ever seen someone with polio, you’d be quick to get all your polio vaccinations. The problem today is that many parents haven’t known or seen people who have had some of these deadly or crippling diseases that were more prevalent in the 1930s to 1960s. It’s too easy not to see how vaccines affect everyone—not just your child. When I was growing up, one of my neighbors had polio. He walked with a cane, and he considered himself lucky—because he could still walk. When my husband and I took our kids to Tanzania and Kenya six years ago, we were all shocked by the numbers of homeless who were riddled with polio and other diseases that contorted their bodies like pretzels. After that trip, my kids never complained about getting another vaccination. We take it for granted what vaccines can do—and the power that they have. Before the measles vaccine was discovered, more than 500,000 Americans got measles every year.Today only 66 Americans do. Vaccines are major medical breakthroughs, but they only work when we get them. I believe that we need to start believing and acting in ways that affect everyone—not just our individual kids.

What’s your take on this controversial issue?

• Discover how to keep your kids healthy
• Download the free Parents’ Guide to Childhood Immunizations from the Centers for Disease Control
Centers for Disease Control, Parents’ Guide to Childhood Immunizations, 2007, 49.
Liz Szabo, “Refusing Kids’ Vaccine More Common,” USA Today, May 4, 2010.
Centers for Disease Control, 9-11.
David Brown, “Polio Outbreak Occurs Among Amish Families in Minnesota,” The Washington Post, October 14, 2005.
“Dengue Fever Virus Found in Key West,” USA Today, July 14, 2010.
Liz Szabo, ibid.
“Autism-Vaccine Doctor Loses License,” USA Today, May 25, 2010.
Centers for Disease Control, 9-11.
Ibid., 15.
Image via Anna and Andy: Flick’r

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