This is gonna be one of those discussions that makes you scratch your head. Time magazine had this article about pediatricians “firing families” because the kids have decided to not have vaccination shots (measles, whooping cough, mumps, polio, etc.).
First. This was an odd article.
It focused on the pediatricians (because the doctors didn’t want at-risk patients being exposed). Regardless. It focused on the doctors.
Second. What I really want to know is … what the fuck the parents are thinking.
Why wouldn’t you vaccinate your child?
30% of all children have skipped at least some of the recommended shots.
Say what?!? Why would any parent do this? (because this isn’t some child throwing a tantrum saying no).
I don’t get it. And I do research some of the crap I write about and even with that I cannot come up with a viable rationale or even a random statistic explaining it (or at least anything that would make any logical fact-driven sense).
So here are some things I think about.
Maybe because the risk of childhood death has diminished so significantly BECAUSE of vaccination usage it is also largely out of mind ….which (in this wacky world of ours) leads a growing number of Americans to worry about what is in fact a much lesser risk – the ill effects of vaccines.
This is a scary double edged sword.
The first is ‘short memory.’
Sure. Each generation is doomed to make the mistakes of past generations (i.e., its no longer a problem so I don’t have to worry about it).
The second is focusing on the wrong things (and that could possibly be driven by the fact that people pay attention to scare tactics – bad news – rather than good news).
The only other thing I can think of is lethargy.
Or some point of view based on ‘there is no longer an issue so my child doesn’t need it’ point of view. Either is stupid.
And if it is indicative of the way people think we have some real issues.
Here is a real issue.
1 in 10 American parents surveyed (750 in the study) reject or delay at least one vaccine recommended in the standard vaccination schedule.
That’s 10% for those folks not good at math. I was really stunned at that number. And it would be easy to suggest that health providers/ doctors should do a better job at educating patients … but I struggle with making them solely responsible for what I actually believe is ‘personal responsibility’ (or adult responsibility … or parent responsibility … or, even bigger, social responsibility).
Let’s focus. This is ALL about personal responsibility.
This isn’t a religious debate like creation and intelligent design or even pro-life.
This is a challenge to health science that crosses party, class, and religious lines. And I imagine it is possible that this is partly a reaction to some pharmaceutical company PR mistakes and public relations missteps in general which have encouraged a general distrust of experts.
But it is also a product of the era of instant communication and easy access to information. The doubters and deniers are empowered by the Internet (online, nobody knows you’re not a doctor) and helped by the mainstream media which has an interest in pumping up bad science to create a “debate” and distrust … where there should be none.
Thanks to the internet everyone can be their own medical investigator/expert.
There are anti-vaccine Web sites, Facebook groups, email alerts, and lobbying organizations and even politicians share misinformation and fuel anxiety in their desire to get votes.
What this means is that the exceptions (the rare occasions that something bad does happen) take on exponential proportions online.
In certain parts of the US, vaccination rates have dropped so low that occurrences of some children’s diseases are approaching pre-vaccine levels for the first time ever. And the number of people who choose not to vaccinate their children (so-called philosophical exemptions are available in about 20 states, including Pennsylvania, Texas, and much of the West) continues to rise.
In states where such opting out is allowed, 2.6 percent of parents did so last year, up from 1 percent in 1991, according to the CDC.
In some communities, like California’s affluent Marin County, just north of San Francisco, non-vaccination rates are approaching 6 percent (counter intuitively the higher rates of non-vaccination often correspond with higher levels of education and wealth).
All that may not sound like much, but a recent study by the Los Angeles Times indicates that the impact can be devastating. The Times found that even though only about 2 percent of California’s kindergartners are unvaccinated (10,000 kids, or about twice the number as in 1997), they tend to be clustered, disproportionately increasing the risk of an outbreak of such largely eradicated diseases as measles, mumps, and whooping cough.
The clustering means almost 10 percent of elementary schools statewide may already be at risk.
Unvaccinated children are 23 times more likely to get whooping cough, a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes violent coughing and is potentially lethal to infants.
In an issue of the journal Pediatrics, Jason Glanz, an epidemiologist at Kaiser’s Institute for Health Research, revealed that the number of reported whooping cough cases jumped from 1,000 in 1976 to 26,000 in 2004.
I use whooping cough simply as an example that a disease that vaccines made rare is making a comeback.
The #2 most refused vaccine for children? The seasonal flu shot at 76%.
Except for New Jersey, flu vaccine is not required for school entry. While the CDC and AAP recommend annual flu vaccine, it is never included in the national immunization survey done annually by the CDC. While flu shots should be routine, just as important as those required for school entry, and universally accepted by parents just like the other childhood immunizations, parents opt to skip flu vaccine for themselves and their kids for no really good reason. Of all the vaccine-preventable diseases, we see influenza (aka “the flu”) every winter and we see people (particularly the very young and very old) die every year from it.
While it drives me crazy to think that parents are keeping vaccinations from children for a variety of reasons let’s get some facts out there.
The Institute of Medicine has also poured over 1000 articles on vaccine safety and published a comprehensive report in August 2011 that should reassure families about the safety of vaccinations.
So despite some of the online “scare stories” … vaccinations benefit our youth … and protect a generation to be happy & healthy.
And the danger from this growing sense that ‘vaccinations are bad’?
As an example there have been about 10,000 cases and 10 infant deaths from whooping cough in California, and at last count—198 cases of measles in the U.S.—more cases than we have seen in over 15 years.
Childhood diseases are real. Vaccinations WORK. Vaccine safety continues to be monitored and proven.
Vaccines DO work.
Does the anti-vaccine camp really believe that smallpox, polio, measles, whooping cough, etc… etc…, each of which at one point in history contributed SIGNIFICANTLY to infant, child, and adult mortality, just vanished all by their lonesome?
To not recognize the correlation in the decline of these diseases with the increased use of disease-specific vaccinations is not only ludicrous, it’s irresponsible.
To be fair (and protect myself from the nutcases who want to attack pharmaceutical companies & vaccines) I would be irresponsible to claim that all vaccines are harmless. Aside from the fact that some people contract a mild form of the disease they are being vaccinated against there are many historical examples of vaccines that were stopped or modified because they were not tolerated as well as expected.
For instance, the early oral form of the polio vaccine was replaced by the injected form because of adverse side effects.
All that said … vaccinations have made many hugely contagious diseases almost obsolete.
While this last thought seems crazy to even type … being rational takes work, education, and a conscious decision to avoid making hasty inferences. I guess much like these infectious diseases themselves (which have virtually been beaten by decades of effort to vaccinate people) irrational thinking lingers just below the surface waiting for us to let down our guard.
All that said.
This is a crazy issue.
An “anti-vaccine’ camp? Really? C’mon.
Parents step up to the plate and get your kids vaccinated.
Vaccines do work.